The aim of this initiative is to build and facilitate collaborative governance in support of the knowledge-intensive business services (KIBS) sector. Complex challenges require a new model of collaborative relationships between public and private actors, enabling the co-design of efficient policy programmes. The KIBS sector is a fundamental focus of the city's competitiveness strategy, in line with the regional strategy of smart specialisation, as the city accounts for 50% of KIBS employment in the Basque Country as a whole.

The origin of the initiative is in the UIA-funded AS Fabrik and its transfer experience within AS Transfer funded by an Urbact call.


Strong points 

  • The team of Bilbao Ekintza, the economic development agency of the City, as facilitators of collaborative governance arenas.
  • The development of facilitation capabilities of urban policymakers supported by Orkestra, the Basque Institute of Competitiveness, under an action research laboratory.
  • Multilevel governance including regional, provincial and urban governing bodies. alignment between the city’s competitiveness strategy and the Basque 2030 Science, Technology and Innovation Plan.
  • Multifaceted approach involving the triple helix: employment, connection to industry, urban laboratory, innovation district.

Key stakeholders 

  • Basque Government.
  • Provincial Government.
  • Business clusters: information and communication technology, electronics, engineering and consulting; environment; automotive; machine tool.
  • Technology centres.
  • Universities and Vocational Training.

City strategy 

Under the overall goal of shaping an attractive city for investment in new businesses and boosting the economy with greater opportunities and quality employment, urban competitiveness strategy focuses on four economic areas:

  • KIBS
  • Creative industries and design
  • Longevity
  • Circular Economy

The collaboration and the creation of innovation ecosystems are essential to move forward and make a change in the competitiveness of these strategic sectors.


Results and impacts 

  • 3 working groups in progress with 3 workshops having been held in each of them.
  • Collaborative projects co-defined in each of the working groups ready to be submitted to the strategic forum.
  • Increased mutual knowledge among the actors of the working space.
  • A unique space to exchange views, contribute and get involved in collaborative projects.
  • Facilitation capabilities of urban policymakers (Bilbao Ekintza) and starting change in policy approach.


  • To ensure that all the actors involved feel ownership of the collaborative project and the sustainability of this feeling of belonging.
  • To generate a sense of ecosystem.
  • To exchange information and points of view among the different working groups in order to connect and align them.
  • Achieve the desired impact on policy programmes or actions derived from collaborative governance arenas.
  • To advance the shift to a policy approach based on collaborative governance that often clashes with the rooted hierarchical and service provider culture of public administration.

Enabling conditions 

  • Support of the Basque Institute of Competitiveness through action research for urban competitiveness and development of facilitation capabilities.
  • Good relations between politicians from city, provincial and regional government bodies.
  • Involvement of the political level of the city through the Councillor and Mayor.

Transfer tips

  • Identify carefully the actors to be involved, including individual companies.
  • Build trusting relationships and comfortable spaces for relaxed sharing.
  • Identify previously for each of the actors the value of participating in the collaborative project to each stakeholder.
  • Develop a facilitation methodology: they are emergent processes but this does not mean that there is no methodology behind.

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