Europe’s innovative cities look to business to lead change

Manchester City Council chief executive Joanne Roney and Antwerp's deputy mayor Erica Caluwaerts

Business-led innovation that creates inclusive economies is part of the ambitions of some of Europe’s most innovative cities.

Antwerp, Stockholm and Manchester shared their experiences and successes in leading collaborative partnerships between business, academia and public sector.

Joanne Roney, chief executive of Manchester City Council, said: “It is very much in our DNA in the city to be innovative and to be different – to think differently and to do things differently.”

“Innovation is about the quality of our urban life, it is progressive policies that tackle bigger issues, and long term future-thinking policies. It is, of course, about sustainability, but it’s also innovation in health, inclusion, and particularly knowledge, scientific and technical advances.

“I think underneath all that our approach to innovation is about letting it be business-driven innovation, so that it is a fundamental part of the economy.”

Erica Caluwaerts, deputy mayor of Antwerp, described her city as “a human-sized metropolis” with the Belgian location having “a homely feel with an international reach”.

“Antwerp is an innovation powerhouse which is a result of a few powers joining forces together – the forces of the city, of the port, of the university, and companies”, she said.

Antwerp is based on four fundamentals, said Caluwaerts – the second largest port in Europe, the second largest chemical cluster in the world, the leading diamond centre in the world, and the centre of retail in Flanders, boosted by the profile of the group of fashion designers known as the Antwerp Six.

“Start-ups are very important,” she said. “We believe that they they really bring oxygen to our four fundamentals and also into our ecosystems.”

“You need innovation to future proof and that innovation starts with creative people.”

Joanne Roney, second left, alongside Erica Caluwaerts and Anna Gissler

Sweden has reaped the benefits of a long tradition of technological innovation, and is the birthplace of Ericsson, Klarna and Spotify, among many others.

Anna Gissler, chief executive of Invest Stockholm, said: “When we are talking about Stockholm and innovation we often think about that we have a huge and grand history in innovation. It’s in our DNA.

“Stockholm is visionary, free and trustworthy, and they are the three pillars that Stockholm is built on.

“When I say Stockholm and innovation, it’s a collaboration of rankings, of history, of technical innovation, and we combine that into the social and the economic.”

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