The city of Cluj is running in the competition to become European Capital of Innovation 2020
The city of Cluj is running in the competition to become European Capital of Innovation 2020. Eligible are European cities with population above 100,000, and can apply with the deadline on June 23. In addition to increased visibility and support from European authorities, the winning city will also get an award of one million Euro. The cities that are shortlisted will get one hundred thousand Euro each. The announcement was made by the mayor of Cluj, Emil Boc.
He said that the decision was made this year to run for European Innovation Capital, and that winning was an unknown, but that the city had what it takes to be an able competitor. The mayor stated that they have the ecosystem for innovation, turning the city from industrial to knowledge industry based, and digital economy based. Boc said that this is reflected in present policies in areas such as public transportation, ecological initiatives, and public administration. as well as in budget contributions. His opinion is that these are examples of best practices that can move the map from west to east in terms of innovation.
The decision was made after the European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, Mariya Gabriel, announced this competition at the conference entitled StartUpCity Cluj-Napoca. She said that Cluj is an inspiration and that her presence was a form of support for several locally innovative ecosystems, support in order to show that cities are key players in this new economy of knowledge. In addition, she stressed that we have to face climate change, provide answers in terms of digitization, offer answers for challenges in terms of population, which is why when we have the triangle of education, research, and innovation provided there are good examples out there, such as the city of Cluj, we have an encouraging sign.
We asked the director of the Transilvania IT cluster, Bianca Muntean, one of the actors involved in the digital transformation of the city, about the projects that Clus is bringing to the table to win the contest:
“In the last two years, all our projects are oriented towards the concept of Wise City, because the concept of Smart City is believed to be obsolete, and here we are not talking only about technology, or turning public administration digital, but about all projects that improve quality of life for the citizens of Cluj-Napoca. We are talking about the digital development strategy of the city, which has the participation of several partners in our community. I am talking bout the two IT clusters in Cluj, the universities in the city, all under the coordination of City Hall.”
Digitization, with all its advantages, could paradoxically turn into a burden for the citizens, especially the older ones. Bianca Muntean told us that efforts are being made to familiarize them with new technologies, with no one left behind:
“We are talking about classes in using the technologies, because it is pointless to have an administration that offers digital solutions for paying taxes, for instance, if the citizens don't know they exist, or how to use them. To this end, the Transilvania IT cluster started a training program for seniors in our city, where they learn how to use these new technologies when interacting with public administration. To summarize, we are talking about a strategy of digital transformation of the city, of public administration, the technical solutions that the city makes available to citizens to make interaction easier. They can more easily track their applications, their payments for taxes, solutions for easily identifying available parking spaces, solutions for measuring air quality, solutions for mobility, solutions for participative budgeting.”
However, the modernization of the city is not for the sake of awards or international fame, but in the interest of citizens, Bianca Muntean underlined. Last year, the European Capital of Innovation was Nantes, and previously Amsterdam, Vienna, and Athens. Previously, however, the city of Cluj has been European Youth Capital and European City of Sport. If it manages to become European Capital of Innovation, it would be the first city in CEE to earn that distinction.