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Platjabot, the device created by Invest in Valencia success story Umibots, is poised for testing in Las Arenas in April. The Urban Sandbox ordinance, recently greenlit, adopts a one-stop-shop model, facilitating real tests to boost innovative and technological projects in the city. The aim is offering companies the opportunity to test their products in real environments to ensure their success. 

Valencia’s commitment to becoming an experimentation hub for prototypes and cutting-edge projects, addressing urban challenges, is evident in the ambitious Urban Sandbox initiative. Paula Llobet, Councillor for Innovation, Technology, Digital Agenda, and Investment, emphasizes Valencia’s pioneering role in Europe, stating, “the Urban Sandbox turns the city of Valencia into a real experimentation scenario and consolidates it as a leading city in innovation We are the first in Spain to launch such an ambitious Urban Sandbox.”

This initiative aligns with the goal of achieving climate neutrality by 2030 while promoting business productivity and competitiveness, contributing to the knowledge society, enhancing public services to meet evolving citizen needs, and fostering an innovative ecosystem and culture. 

With the Living Lab and the Sandbox ready, Valencia now possesses two out of the three experimentation spaces prioritized by the European Commission to promote innovative experimentation policies among member states under public-private collaboration frameworks. 

 

PLATJABOT, one of the first projects to launch in the Sandbox 

PlatjabotTests will take place in April at post 3 of the Malvarrosa beach, next to the Hotel Las Arenas. The Platjabot, designed to transform beach cleaning, features a sophisticated system for selecting, vacuuming, and accumulating debris from the sand. Like domestic robot hoovers, Plajtabot can be configured according to the time of day, weather conditions or beach saturation. Its advanced technology provides up to 19 hours of autonomy, covering around 4000m² per hour, with anti-vandalism measures and optimal sensors for triple security. While the initial tests focus on the beach, Platjabot’s applications extend to urban parks, recreational areas, golf courses, and various sandy terrains.

Valencia City Council has announced additional projects in the Urban Sandbox, including the adaptation of lampposts for electric vehicle charging and innovations in sports facilities to reduce energy consumption. 

About UMIBOTS 

UMIBOTS, having arrived in Valencia with the support of Invest In Valencia in May 2023, focuses on autonomous and electric robots for urban mobility. The company, with four employees, achieved a turnover of €200,000 last year. UMIBOTS boasts the UMI-MARKET project, an award-winning app-based purchasing system, and is currently developing the UMI-CLEAN, an automatic cleaning robot for indoors and outdoors.  

 

If you’ve been fortunate enough to experience Valencia during the Fallas festival, you’ve witnessed firsthand the grandeur of this quintessential Valencian celebration. Even if you’re from outside Spain, chances are you’re familiar with its significance. It’s no surprise that Las Fallas ranks as the most searched popular Spanish festival worldwide on Google, followed by the Sanfermines and the Feria de Abril. In 2023 alone, it garnered a staggering 1,355,620 searches, marking a 31% increase from the previous year. The search volume peaked in February and March, with 225,930 and 577,430 searches, respectively. 

These insights are derived from a report by the Cluster of Innovative Companies for Tourism in the Valencian Community (ADESTIC), which also highlights the festival’s international appeal. Italians (17.4%), Americans (16.5%), Mexicans (15.7%), and French (10.5%) exhibit the most interest in this iconic event outside Spain. 

Further data from the Economic Impact Study conducted by the Chair of Sustainable Economic Model València i Entorn at the University of Valencia underscores the Fallas’ significance. It reigns as Spain’s leading festival in terms of employment generation and economic impact, with a staggering 732.6 million euros contributing to the economy in 2023. This investment translates to 6,500 jobs and 180 million euros in income. 

On an individual scale, Fallas families contribute an average of €1,760, totaling €74 million, while commissions invest nearly €35 million. Visitors and residents collectively spend close to €269 million, with companies and public administrations investing €8 million and €11 million, respectively. This economic activity accounts for 0.29% of the province of Valencia’s GDP, 0.14% of the Comunitat Valenciana’s GDP, and 0.53% of employment in the province compared to 0.28% in the Comunitat.
 

Cost Breakdown: Creating a Fallas Monument 

As for the cost of constructing Fallas monuments, expenditures vary, with the 384 fallas commissions collectively spending 8.84 million euros in 2023. Notably, the Special Section Fallas, renowned for their size and spectacle, lead expenditures, with the Jerusalem-Matemático Marzal Convent investing €245,000 this year and the Falla del Ayuntamiento allocating €239,000, its largest budget to date. 

 

Additional fascinating Insights: 

– 353 traffic closures and 283 marquees set up in Valencia 

– Over 5,000 officers and 460 firefighters ensuring public safety 

– €2.74 million spent by the City Council on cleaning services 

– 133 stalls offering chocolate, churros, and buñuelos 

– Nearly 2 million visitors during the festival’s five main days, with hotel and turistic acommodation occupancy ranging between 75% and 90% 

– Over 100,000 falleros participating in the floral offering, presenting nearly 100,000 bouquets to the Virgen de los Desamparats. 

La Harinera de Valencia has just been officially inaugurated. The official opening is graced by the presence of María José Catalá, the Mayor of the city, Paula Llobet, Councilor for Tourism, Digital Agenda, Innovation, and Investment, alongside various institutional authorities and key members from the Valencian entrepreneur and innovation ecosystem. Invest in Valencia’s director, María Escartí, has introduced the soft- landing services that will be offered from the new space. This historic Grao factory from the early 20th century is now poised to reawaken, harnessing the potential of its expansive 5,000 square meters of floor space. 

Inauguración Harinera

Designed to serve the city and, alongside Las Naves, emerge as the new public innovation entity, both entities boast an ambitious objective of positioning themselves as a significant innovation hub, akin to those in European cities such as Berlin, Paris, and Amsterdam, with a combined space of over 10,000 square meters. 

Beyond technological and innovation projects within the iconic Grao building, the initiative also includes the promotion of a gaming hub: Valencia Game City. Paula Llobet, Councillor for Tourism, Digital Agenda, Innovation, and Investment, highlights the remarkable standing of Spain’s premier training school and seventh globally, along with the international event Dreamhack, drawing 70,000 attendees annually. Llobet underscores the importance of fostering an industry that retains students in the city. 

In line with this vision, the initiative will offer training and support to universities, facilitating the integration of their students into the job market to promote quality employment and retain talent in the city. 

Investors meeting point 

One of the captivating initiatives set to unfold within the revamped Harinera is the introduction of a soft-landing service, aiding foreign companies seeking to invest in the city by streamlining legal and physical establishment processes.  

This will be a first point of contact for international companies, providing access to specialized talent, compatible spaces, and quality networking, with temporary offices available for their initial steps. 

Inside La Harinera de Valencia 

La Harinera, an industrial heritage of the city dating back to 1923, has undergone restoration that preserves its original essence while making it a functional space. The complex includes a main building with five floors, an annex building, a street-accessible cafeteria, a bioclimatic garden courtyard, and a third building. 

Situated on Juan Verdaguer Street, within La Marina de Valencia in the Grao district, La Harinera is part of the dynamic Poblados Marítimos, the city’s seafaring district. El Grao has seen the development of strategic projects in recent years, establishing itself as a hub for economic development and innovation, hosting various initiatives like EDEM Business School, Lanzadera business incubator, Angels investment company, Veles e Vents, Innsomnia accelerator, and coworking spaces like Wayco or Vortex, or the upcoming opening of The Terminal Hub. Today, it stands as a privileged location for entrepreneurship. 

 

The city of Valencia is firmly committed to fostering a sustainable society where innovation and entrepreneurship go hand in hand. Progressing in this direction, we are proud to announce a significant milestone that brings Valencia closer to the objectives outlined in Missions València 2030 and the Estrategia Urbana València 2030.

Valencia has been accepted into the European Network of Living Labs (ENoLL), recognizing the city’s efforts in promoting innovation. With this achievement, our city joins over 480 members in Europe and worldwide, comprising a prestigious and independent non-profit organization dedicated to fostering an open and global innovation ecosystem for co-creation and collaboration.

But what exactly is a Living Lab?

Living Labs (LLs) are open innovation ecosystems operating in real-life environments, employing interactive feedback processes throughout the lifecycle of innovation to generate sustainable impact. They emphasize co-creation, rapid prototyping and testing, as well as scaling-up innovations and businesses, thereby providing various forms of joint value to the involved stakeholders.

In this capacity, living labs serve as intermediaries and orchestrators among citizens, research organizations, companies, and government agencies.

This membership grants Valencia access to a range of resources and services, including tailored innovation programs, working groups of Living Labs members, and various networking activities.

Valencia submitted its application to become a Living Lab city last November and has recently received approval from ENoLL. Building upon this success, the city council has confirmed the imminent launch of the Valencia Urban Sandbox, the regulation of which has been under discussion over the past few months.

But what exactly is an Urban Innovation Sandbox?

A sandbox is a controlled and secure testing environment where technological innovations can undergo testing before being commercialized and implemented. The aim is to provide companies, startups, and academic institutions with a suitable location in the city to test their inventions with streamlined bureaucracy.

This initiative aligns with the goal of achieving climate neutrality by 2030 while promoting business productivity and competitiveness, contributing to the knowledge society, enhancing public services to meet evolving citizen needs, and fostering an innovative ecosystem and culture.

With the Living Lab and the Sandbox (almost) ready, Valencia now possesses two out of the three experimentation spaces prioritized by the European Commission to promote innovative experimentation policies among member states under public-private collaboration frameworks.

Over the years, ICT job and talent specialists have emerged as highly sought-after professionals, with a robust ICT profile being particularly esteemed. This trend is expected to persist in the medium and long term, becoming a pivotal factor for companies and investors in shaping strategic objectives, especially when expanding operations beyond their home borders or venturing into new markets.

According to Eurostat data, in 2021 approximately 60 to 70% of companies that were recruiting or trying to recruit ICT specialists faced difficulties in filling those vacancies. The European Union saw over 9 million people employed in the sector in 2022, with Germany hosting one-fifth of them (2.1 million) and Spain ranking third with 0.9 million professionals.

Delving into the data, the numbers add up for Spain. The third European country with the most employed ICT professionals with fewer than 33% of companies experiencing difficulties in securing qualified ICT personnel. This contrasts with other EU nations, such as Slovenia, leading with a 78% difficulty rate, followed by Luxembourg with almost 71%, and the Netherlands with just over 70%.

Some of the challenges encountered by companies when searching for ICT specialists, are lack of relevant qualifications and experience and high salary expectations. Difficulties that are largely addressed and solved in Valencia. Spain, and particularly Valencia, has proactively implemented measures to address the surging demand for technological talent, making easily accessible and affordable highly qualify professionals—two fundamental aspects for innovation companies and start-ups as we have mentioned before.

Education plays a crucial role in these measures. The Polytechnic University of Valencia claims to be the best polytechnic university in Spain, leading the production of tech talent. The University of Valencia ranking among the top 3-7 best universities in Spain and the top 400 globally (2023 Shanghai Ranking about worldwide universities). Valencia itself stands out as a premier Erasmus destination for various reasons and more than 3,500 engineers and data scientists graduate annually in the Valencian Community.

The city’s attractiveness to international job and talent is evident in the enrolment of over 15,000 foreign students in Valencian universities. Many of these students, drawn by the city’s favourable conditions in terms of employability and quality of life, end up contributing to the pool of specialized talent sought after by companies.

And if all this information wasn’t enough for you to consider your company landing in the city, there is more. A high turnover becomes a multidimensional problem for companies, right? Well, according to a recent study on labor turnover in Spain elaborated by Randstand Research (2022), the average annual turnover of Spanish companies was at 17.0% in 2022. In this study the Valencian Community stands out for having the second lowest turnover rate in Spain, at 11,7%. The autonomous communities with the highest level of turnover are Andalusia (23,7%) and Navarre (23,2). Madrid’s turnover rate is set at 15,6% and Cataluña’s at 16,0%.

As you can see, there are many reasons to consider landing a business in Valencia. Shall we talk about it?

The recently inaugurated 2024 promises to be a ground-breaking year for the city of Valencia. This is the year in which it becomes a benchmark for European sustainability after several years of urban development. Only 14 cities have won the European Green Capital Award before it. Valencia proudly becomes the second one in Spain (following Vitoria in 2012) and the first one in the Mediterranean.

What is the European Green Capital?

The European Green Capital Award, an initiative launched by the European Commission in 2010, recognizes municipalities with over 100,000 inhabitants that excel in environmental standards and demonstrate an unwavering commitment to environmental protection. Endowed with 600,000 euros, the award acknowledges the city’s efforts to enhance the environment and improve the quality of life for both residents and visitors. These efforts align with initiatives such as the European Green Pact, the EU’s Biodiversity Strategy 2030, and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Beyond rewarding the winning municipality, the award seeks to inspire other cities to embark on environmental improvement and sustainable development endeavours by providing an inspiring model to follow.

Why Valencia?

The jury of the European Green Capital Award is composed of representatives of seven European institutions that take into account up to 12 environmental indicators such as climate change mitigation and adaptation, urban mobility, land use, air quality, nature and biodiversity, noise, waste and energy efficiency.

Valencia’s triumph in securing the European Green Capital 2024 Award can be attributed to various factors, including:

  1. Turia Garden, Europe’s Longest Urban Park: The Turia Garden, a former riverbed transformed into a green space in 1986, spans over 120 hectares and 12 kilometers. This extensive urban park has become an integral part of the city’s identity.
  2. Preservation and Expansion of Green Spaces: Valencia’s commitment extends to the preservation and creation of new green spaces, encompassing the Albufera Natural Park, the Huerta, parks, and gardens. The city actively works towards improving air quality and restoring natural ecosystems, such as the Devesa dune and wetland ecosystems.
  3. Revitalization of Public Spaces and Promotion of Cycling: Valencia prioritizes creating citizen-friendly environments by transforming streets and squares into pedestrian-friendly spaces. The city boasts over 160 km of cycle lanes and 95 km2 kilometres of pedestrian areas, encouraging sustainable modes of transportation.
  4. Tourism Carbon Footprint Reduction: Valencia actively promotes the audit of the carbon and water footprint of tourism activities, implementing measures to achieve carbon neutrality in the sector.

capital verde Europea

What’s next?

12 months ahead to showcase the sustainability model that has made Valencia the European Green Capital. The inaugural days on January 11 and 12 set the stage for more than 400 planned events throughout the year, including the noteworthy Cities Mission Conference 2024 organized by the European Commission. A climate conference at the highest international level that each year brings together local, national and European representatives to make further progress towards climate neutrality.

This conference will bring together the 112 Mission Cities, among others: “we will extend this invitation and commitment to other common networks, such as the European Green Cities network. At the event, which will take place in June, a decalogue of commitments will be drawn up, the Valencia 2024 Green Charter”, commented the city mayor, María José Catalá. She also announced the challenge proposed by the city council for this important year of making l’Albufera a Biosphere Reserve.

Numerous environmental challenges await us this year!

(Infographic: Visit Valencia)

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