In a rural town threatened by depopulation, a strong and determined smart territorial innovation strategy, known as the Fundão Innovation Plan, has created an innovation ecosystem that is a reference in Portugal, attracting 16 IT companies, creating 1,000 skilled jobs, generating 80 start-ups, and supporting 250 private investment projects, while investing in R&D and pioneering initiatives in professional retraining and digital skills.

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Strong points 

  • Attracting investment and promoting the creation of skilled jobs.
  • Stimulating the innovation ecosystem.
  • Encourage urban regeneration and socio-economic revitalisation of the city centre.
  • Involve the local and regional community, working in partnership.
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Key stakeholders 

Cova da Beira Living Lab, certified by the European Network of Living Labs (ENoLL). The consortium consists of public entities, universities, and schools; civic and development; businesses; financial institutions, among others.
On the other hand, collaboration within national and international networks and partnerships has been crucial.

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City strategy 

  • Small rural town in Central Portugal facing depopulation and economic decline.
  • Since 2012, implemented the Fundão Innovation Plan to enhance competitiveness, attract investment, and create jobs.
  • Focus on address globalization and digital economy, while preserving traditional sectors as agri-food, industry, tourism.
  • Establishment of a specialized support team, infrastructures, wide range of partners, competitive incentives, mobility programmes, and digital skills promotion.
  • Fundão is a smart, sustainable, and inclusive city, that focuses on its low density and rural dimension.
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Results and impacts 

  • Supported 250+ private investment projects (€150M+ investment).
  • Created 1,000+ skilled jobs in information and communication technologies and 1,000+ jobs in traditional sectors.
  • Positive migration balance since 2015, hosting 70+ nationalities.
  • Accelerated 80+ start-ups, with 3 in national top 25.
  • Universal computer programming in public schools
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Challenges 

  • Coordinating diverse stakeholders.
  • Sustaining investment in a rural environment.
  • Developing a skilled workforce from a rural population.
  • Integrating new technologies with traditional industries.
  • Ensuring local acceptance of rapid changes.
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Enabling conditions 

  • Strong leadership and strategic vision.
  • Comprehensive innovation ecosystem.
  • Strategic partnerships and networks.
  • Investment in education and retraining.
  • Economic diversification.
  • Community engagement and urban regeneration.
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Transfer tips

  • Leverage city's strengths to attract investment and innovation.
  • Invest in education and training for new industries.
  • Build strong partnerships.
  • Keep community central to development plans.
  • Recognize transformation as a long-term, flexible process.

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