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Zigurat participates in the European Tender ESPON METRO – “The role and future perspectives of Cohesion Policy in the planning of Metropolitan Areas and Cities”


Zigurat Global Institute of Technology participated in the call for tenders for ESPON METRO project through some of its lecturers of the Master’s in Smart City Management from Europe and the United States. In addition, Knowurbannet, Zigurat’s collaborator in the field of Smart Cities, also played a relevant role in coordinating the lecturers and leading the proposal.

The project will analyze and compare the role of cohesion policy in the process of planning and implementation of metropolitan policies, addressing experiences and practices, as well as their territorial impact in the nine stakeholder territories. The aim is to contribute to the extended use of territorial evidence, adding a European perspective to policy development at national, regional and local level in the framework of the ESPON 2020 program, under ”Specific Objective 2T. Upgraded knowledge transfer and use of analytical support”. The stakeholders of the ESPON METRO project are: 

  • Metropolitan City of Turin
  • Barcelona Metropolitan Area
  • Lisbon Metropolitan Area
  • Brno City Municipality
  • Metropolitan Area of Gdańsk-Gdynia-Sopot
  • Municipality of Florence
  • Métropole de Lyon
  • Brussels-Capital Region
  • Riga City Council City Development Department

ESPON METRO aims to provide evidence on how metropolitan areas can contribute to achieving specific objectives of cohesion policy through public measures, giving advice on how to take into account different aspects. Therefore, the main outcome will be a realistic list of evidence-based policy recommendations on how to achieve socio-economic and integrated territorial development objectives in metropolitan areas and cities of each stakeholder involved in METRO, highlighting their connection with cohesion policy.

The consortium of the proposal is formed by SOGES S.p.A. (Italy), Zigurat Global Institute of Technology (Spain), PPLL Consult (Portugal), Welcomeurope (France), Institute of Geography and Spatial Organization Polish Academy of Sciences (Poland), Aretian Urban Analytics and Design (United States), Fundació Privada Knowledge Innovation Market - KIM BCN (Spain), Mendel University in Brno (Czech Republic) and Urban Institute (Latvia).

When it comes to the socio-economic and institutional context, in 2012-2013 metropolitan areas with more than 1,000,000 inhabitants generated about 47% of GDP. If we take into consideration all metropolitan areas, the figure reached around 68% of GDP (EUROSTAT, 2016). Metropolitan areas, especially larger ones, are likely to have a more highly educated population than other areas and to offer an environment that is particularly favorable to the introduction of new ideas and the inception of new products. These territories can be breeding grounds for a creative and skilled workforce, specialized clusters of economic activity, universities, and research institutes. In this sense, metropolitan regions are considered to be the centers of economic growth. 

However, one of the main challenges is related to the fragmentation or dispersion of power. Metropolitan areas are governed by different local or regional entities and other structures that are in charge of their economic and spatial development. In this fragmented context, none of these governmental structures has the power and tools to address all challenges and opportunities in order to support an integrated model of development. Institutional structures and governance practices often remain geared towards the radial core-centric urban model which may put outer areas in a dependent position in their relations with the core cities.

A 2015 OECD study argues that metropolitan areas with fragmented governance structures tend to have lower levels of productivity. For the same population size, a metropolitan area with twice the number of municipalities is associated with lower productivity of around 6%. This percentage drops by almost half whenever there is a governance body at the metropolitan level. Recognizing the role of metropolitan areas and cities in the scope of cohesion can contribute to the final objective of a balanced territorial socio-economic development

EU resources related to cohesion policy that have an impact on metropolitan areas and cities are mainly managed at regional and national levels. Ergo, there is a gap between the population and GDP of metropolitan areas and cities and the amount of cohesion policy resources managed directly by them. This has its consequences on the effectiveness of EU policies in those territories. Despite their importance in the development of the European territory, metropolitan areas and cities are not the primary actors in the design of programs and strategies to implement cohesion policy. 

The experience with the 2007-2013 programming period, showed that cities and urban areas were involved at the project level as beneficiaries. In the current 2014-2020 programming period, cohesion policy has enhanced its role by acknowledging the importance of cities and towns in specific investment priorities. Nevertheless, the role of cities and their influence on the design of the programs seems to be limited. Metropolitan Areas and Cities can play a crucial role in implementing sustainable urban and territorial development, according to integrated territorial development principles, adopting a place-based perspective and implementing proper policy tools such as Integrated Territorial Investments (ITIs). However, the possibility to use these tools is often decided at the national level. 

This ESPON targeted analysis shall support metropolitan areas and cities in the effort to enhance their role in the decision-making process related to the post-2020 programming period, also implementing the Pact of Amsterdam, establishing the Urban Agenda for the EU, and the renewed Leipzig Charter on Sustainable European Cities.