Aveiro ECOC candidacy - Aveiro Steam City
It is widely recognized that cultural policies represent levers of urban economic development of cities, as well as producing significant social impacts. However, innovation in culture is still, in some contexts, conditioned by a traditional vision of cultural policies, which sees a concentration of efforts on the system of cultural production or on physical and tangible investments for recovery and refurbishment.
The vision that has been spreading in the last 10 years pushes towards a new orientation, often expanding the scope of the cultural and creative industries, focusing on the hybridization of models that come from various market segments, and betting on the combination of art and technology. Embracing this vision, the city of Aveiro decided to combine its strong assets coming from the tech industries locally based, together with a tradition and history in cultural heritage. This is the reason why we don’t call the UIA project just Aveiro “STEM” city but Aveiro “STEAM” city (ASC), where “A” stands for Art.

In May 2018, the new European Agenda for Culture was adopted by the European Commission. The European Agenda for Culture aims to “harness the full potential of culture to help build a more inclusive and fairer Union, supporting innovation, creativity and sustainable jobs and growth”. For this, the agenda has three strategic objectives: 

  1. Social dimension – Harnessing the power of culture and cultural diversity for social cohesion and well-being.                         
  2. Economic dimension – Supporting culture-based creativity in education and innovation, and for jobs and growth.                          
  3. External dimension- Strengthening international cultural relations.

It is therefore easy to understand how the economic dimension hinges both on the aspect of innovation (product and process innovation) and on the subject of job creation, thus looking at cultural policies as one of the labor levers of urban policies.

Aveiro can count on a vibrant cultural tech and art tech environment.

Through the UIA funded project, it was possible to launch even new initiatives, betting on a solid and promising ground.

Criatech Artistic residencies program and MTF labs

Promoted by Aveiro City Council, the following two programs - 'Aveiro Criatech Artistic Residences’ and “MTF labs” - aim to cross creativity in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics. The first program is implemented by teachers from ESAD and the University of Aveiro, the second one is curated by Michela Magas. Programs’ targets are people linked to the creative or technological industries, creators, artists, students and anyone who has the ambition to develop new projects in the area of the multimedia arts. These initiatives aim to provide candidates with practical and theoretical tools on the production of technological artifacts that result in innovative artistic projects.

“Criatech Artistic Residence” aims at promoting the development of STEAM competences in a collaborative ideation context, with the participation of professionals and students from various creative areas. In its first edition, 24 people participated in the residences, however, due to Covid-19 pandemic, activities were readapted to remote participation. Two artists, from distinct artistic areas, have participated as program’s mentors: Cadie Desbiens-Desmeules and Michael Dean. The showcase of the projects developed in the first edition will take place by the end of 2021. The second edition has been launched, with 2 new mentors: Mathieu Le Sourd and Patrícia J. Reis. In October 2021 the Presentation of the 2 winning projects at Criatech 2021 Festival will be hosted.

“MTF Labs”: it is a 5-day invitation-only innovation prototyping event, that brings together a carefully curated group of experts, selected from the global MTF community together with regional ecosystems of creators, researchers and entrepreneurs. Working Monday to Friday with a wide range of cutting-edge technologies, provided by industry and academic partners, these innovators create new hybrid technologies that bring together ideas and tools from different “verticals”. The activities culminate with a première performance of newly created works and a live experience for invited audiences. MTF Labs gathered 50 experts from 22 countries to collaborate on participative innovation projects. Some of the participants who met in Aveiro continued to collaborate later on new projects.

STEAM Education Activities: Techlabs in schools https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=urU8jTzsmJc

The City of Aveiro installed Tech Labs in all primary schools and have already deployed a training scheme for school teachers. 31 Local schools are equipped with Tech Labs, containing a 3D printer, Robotic Kits, Electric components and laptops, to stimulate young children interest for these activities and developed their skills in these areas. The main objectives of this initiative are the development of STEAM skills, stimulate students’ interest for these areas and create experimentation sessions for students to explore digital tools and solutions.

This action is part of the broader strategy of the City of Aveiro to promote the STEAM education and skills throughout the different school levels: as so, Tech Labs are developed in:

  • Primary schools: 31 local schools were involved and 140 teachers were trained. There are now more than 2900 students who have workstations fully equipped.
  • Intermediate schools: 10 local schools were involved and 34 teachers were trained. There are now more than 3900 students who have a laboratory fully equipped.
  • High schools: 4 local high schools were involved and 16 teachers were trained (4 per school). There are now more than 300 students who have a laboratory fully equipped and adapted to the age group, with a 3D printer, robotics kits, electrical kits and computers.

Aveiro Artistic Festivals

  • Criatech festival is an annual event that promotes artistic creation and unites digital arts and technology in a public and heritage space, contributing to consolidate Aveiro as a territory of excellence in the area, through its connection to industry, scientific knowledge, creative tradition and resilience. CRIATECH encourages the connection between physical, immaterial and modern memory through creative acts in digital and electronic areas, creating a new experience with spaces and collective memory. This new art merges with Art Nouveau in its conceptual essence, as a symbiosis of development and innovation between technique and art.
  • Prisma festival / ART LIGHT TECH, established in 2019 and organized by Teatro Aveirense and the Aveiro City Council,  invites artists, designers, light artists and lighting professionals as well as students and institutions to submit their proposals in order to combine several works of contemporary art, including projections, installations and shows of sound and light, to be presented in various spaces in the city, inviting everyone to the exploration and (re) discovery of the city through a new light. It reached in October 2020 its second edition and was integrated into Aveiro Tech Week: it brought to the city a unique show of light, art and technology through true works of art, capable of enhancing the city's beauty from the largest buildings to the simplest corners. The festival was significant also because, in addition to celebrating creativity, innovation and culture, gave the city a feeling of well-being, after a very troubled year. Next edition will take place on 15 – 16 October 2021.



European Capitals of Culture is an EU funded initiative that provides support to cities for a yearlong celebration of art and culture. This initiative is strongly consolidated, as it was developed in 1985 and has, to date, been awarded to more than 60 cities across the European Union (EU) and beyond.

Six years before the title year, the selected host Member States publish a call for applications, usually through their Ministry for Culture. Cities interested in participating in the competition must submit a proposal for consideration. European Capitals of Culture are formally designated four years before the actual title year. This long period of time is necessary for the planning and preparation of such a complex event. It is also the time needed to embed the event in a longer-term cultural strategy, to significantly engage with the citizens, to make the necessary European connections and to ensure the right infrastructure is in place.

Latvia and Portugal will both host a European Capital of Culture in 2027. Latvia published its call in August 2020, Portugal published its call in November 2020 and will have its pre-selection meeting in early 2022; after other 10 months the final title will be assigned.

During the presentation ceremony of the management body of Aveiro 2027 https://aveiro2027.pt/en/, Carlos Moedas stated his conviction that Aveiro will be the city chosen as the European Capital of Culture, for having “something that differentiates it from all other options: it’s extraordinary link between art, science and innovation”.

José Pina, Aveiro’s ECOC Executive Committee leader, Cultural Advisor of the mayor and Director of Teatro Aveirense, declared that ASC, will represent a fundamental asset for the candidacy.

In particular, he underlines the importance of “artistic and creative skills for young pupils”, developed through the numerous initiatives launched in the framework of the UIA funded project, such as the Tech Labs.

“Our strength in the Tech industry might be decisive, ‘cause the city combines in its strategic plan technology with art and culture, by design. Tech is a competitive factor and a vocation for our territory: it’s an economic engine for SMEs and NGOs; also, the academic presence in the city with laboratories and research centers will be extremely valuable and it’s something that belongs to Aveiro’s tradition and DNA. We want to be one of the most important cities in Portugal for tech and for the art-tech domain”.

In its ECOC application program, the executive committee underlines how the STEAM education is strongly supported and try to bring into the project all the experience gained with the tech labs, the approach tested and adopted with the students in the tech domain; also, public events such as the light festival and art in the public space is underlined. The Aveiro tech week represents a big legacy, and all these programs and initiatives combined together are strategic areas that will be supported and pursued in the future as well.

The executive committee is working together with Andre Costa, Head of Economic Development and Entrepreneurship Division of Aveiro City Council, ASC project manager and also member of the Aveiro ECOC board commission; moreover, a number of professionals in the ASC’s team share, on daily bases, experience and contacts with the Aveiro ECOC team, creating powerful positive mixes, putting together strengths and energies and, above all, sharing and capitalizing the acquired knowledge.

Finally, in terms of international relations, the Aveiro ECOC team is taking advantages from the networking of ASC team: they are working together with several cities in building the program for the candidacy, for example with the city of Oulu, in Finland, that won the title for 2026. Oulu is helping the city of Aveiro on projects based on the art tech domain, such as the PRISMA Light festival and also on projects with schools, with the ERASMUS program and in the environment domain.


Nowadays, artists don’t use technological innovations only as assistants in their creative process. Many artists and art professionals are transforming the art world by leveraging these powerful technology and tools as an art and design medium, allowing them to create striking, immersive, and highly engaging art pieces that are new and multi-disciplinary mixed media art and installations.

Last year, artist-technologist-activist Drue Kataoka, CEO of one of the Silicon Valley’s leading art studio, answering to the question “What excites you the most about the future of art and creativity, and why?”, stated:  “(…) the art of the future will have no boundaries, providing unmatched expression through the visual, aural and also haptic, encapsulated in compelling virtual reality experiences for lovers of art, wherever they are located. Developments in brain-computer interfaces (BCI), bandwidth and artificial intelligence will create a new syncretic form of art, generating life-like experiences unlike anything we’ve seen. This art will challenge our brains to rethink everything in our world—from the laws of physics and causality to the fundamentals of human existence”.

There is a general sense of excitement to see where the application of advanced technology in art is going to take us next. Whatever the future holds, it’s sure that it will continue to transform how artists express and share their creative force to inspire and influence the best of urban communities.


About this resource

Lucia Scopelliti
Aveiro, Portugal Small sized cities (50k > 250k)
About UIA
Urban Innovative Actions

The Urban Innovative Actions (UIA) is a European Union initiative that provided funding to urban areas across Europe to test new and unproven solutions to urban challenges. The initiative had a total ERDF budget of €372 million for 2014-2020.

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