24th September 2019
When Martin Jacobs started the Masters’ Degree in Competitiveness and Innovation, he was especially interested in the innovation framework for the corporate sector, since he had a strong background in that area. “However, it was very interesting for me to step into a new field, for instance, territorial competitiveness development. I liked it very much during my studies, here, on the MUCI”. For this reason, and with his sights set on doing something different, he thought about focusing his Masters’ internship and final project on the territorial competitiveness framework. His former teacher, Miren Estensoro, approached him with a proposal. The Action Research process for the Zorrotzaurre district, in Bilbao had just started as one of the spaces in Bilbao Next Lab. Bilbao city representatives had worked with researchers to define the main challenges for the area, but the next step was to look for possible instruments and solutions to solve those challenges. “Miren explained the project to me and we talked. I thought that it sounded very interesting and I decided to do it”.
The result is “Smart City Development in Zorrotzaurre, Bilbao”, the Masters’ Final Project that Martin defended a few days ago. We talked with him about the project, how the MUCI helped him and his future plans.
Your thesis title gives us a glimpse of the focus of your project, but what did you analyse exactly?
Bilbao city representatives, together with researchers and people working on the Bilbao Next Lab project, defined certain challenges and focus areas related to the development of Zorrotzaurre. Based on that, I developed an analysis of a theoretical framework of Smart City Development and a case analysis that could address the challenges that had been identified. In the end, this theoretical framework was connected to the results of the case analysis, in order to have a comprehensive holistic understanding of how to conduct further development in the Zorrotzaurre area..
You chose 6 cities to study. What criteria did you use to make those choices?
The analysis is focused on specific districts from those 6 cities. Firstly, the districts examined had to have a good reputation in certain areas or sectors, for example in talent creation. Apart from that, they had to be related to the city’s economic development strategy, and show certain similarities to the Zorrotzaurre area, like infrastructures. But even though we were looking to study the same style of districts, we also wanted to see cases that were different from it. For instance, the ones in Hamburg or Rotterdam are attracting more multinational companies, while the cities of Porto and Barcelona are focused on an innovation system.
Why study districts that were different from Zorrotzaurre?
The focus in Zorrotzaurre was more coherent with the innovation system approach, according to the challenges and focus areas defined, but it still was important to see how the two different types of approaches had an impact on all those challenges and how they influenced further development of the island.
Did you find anything surprising?
I mostly expected the direction the study would take. But it was quite surprising sometimes how clear the findings were and how the different points identified in the challenges (talent creation, governance, real state, mobility…) were also connected to each other. In that sense, it is a very holistic picture and every point has a big influence on the others. Just to give an example: the living lab approach for economic development is also closely related to the governance process (its openness). I found that very interesting and surprising.
How does it contribute to the AR process?
Hopefully, the results of the thesis will provide further bases for ongoing discussions, as an insight into what might be possible. And city representatives will then discuss it with researchers, and decide whether to implement some of those solutions.
Will you be able to share these ideas with stakeholders during the process?
There’s supposed to be a workshop in October, and I hope to take part in it. That’s our plan for sure: to present the results of the project.
How were the knowledge and skills developed while you were doing the MUCI useful to this Masters’ Final Project?
For the AR processes, to understand how to conduct AR processes and how to facilitate in governance processes. And, from the innovation perspective, to understand what innovation start-ups need in one respect and what is necessary to provide a territorial competitiveness environment system.
Now that you have finished the MUCI, what’s your next step? What will your next job be or what would you like to focus on?
From November onwards, my plan is to work for an early-stage consultancy, which is conducting consulting services related to how to implement artificial intelligence in company processes. I will be particularly responsible for the creation of a carbon emission data platform for the logistics sector, which is quite big in Hamburg. It will be different from my past experience. Before I worked for a Japanese multinational company in key account management, and now it is more about project development, business development and is more technology-based and self-structured.
Which one of the aspects that you studied during your Masters’ Final Project do you think will be the most significant in your career? And which of the ones you learned during the MUCI programme stand out?
From the Masters’ Final Project, it was very interesting to see how complex governance processes are, as well as to find a connection between the theoretical and analytical framework of AR processes too, which is based on that triangle of action-participation-research. That was very important for my thesis. In addition, how to specifically conduct interviews on a research basis, for example, and to look for certain details as well, because the consulting perspective is different from the research perspective.
As for the MUCI programme, what will certainly help me is the innovation approach: how to conduct innovation management in a company and how to sustain the competitiveness or the competitive advantage of a company, in order to avoid the innovation dilemma, for instance.
Apart from that, I would also like to have the opportunity to examine territorial competitiveness structures again one day. So, I’ll do something different now for the next months or years to come, but further work in this area is not out of perspective for me. I’d like to do something related to it in the future.