Opening Session – Markku Makkula

Markku Makkula, President of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR).


Thank you thank you very much.  Ladies and gentlemen, I want to first thank the organizers for inviting us to contribute here and now.

When I am speaking on behalf of all the cities and regions in Europe, since we are the
committee of the regions, we are the official body for representing practically 350 mayors
and regional presidents and councillors from all parts of Europe.
To add to that another 350 of our alternates who as well were allowed to participate. We normally organize our plenary meetings 6 times a year, here at the premises of the European Parliament and bringing the voice as the assembly of the cities and regions who are more like the bottom-up
Let me link this starting point with what Andrus Ansip said in his beginning about Tim Bernas Lee. Ansip went back to 1989 on this important memo of Tim’s. Actually, it was a after that I was elected the president of our city council and one of my first things were to invite some 20 people who I knew were being innovators of the future, inventors of the future. I invited them to a joint meeting to talk about how we could form an internet society in my city.  The lesson that I learned was that half of the people that I invited were young school children from 14 to 18 year olds. And they were eager to start whenever on that.
I was at that time working as the director of lifelong learning Institute at our University of Technology. So, we have the internet access, I was able to provide people with the internet addresses – organizing this kind of initiative, inviting these school children and their teachers as well to join us in making new things to happen. Kind of visualizing what this can mean. Again, there was strong support – a kind of enabling factor from some of the political decision makers including the minister of Education in Finland – madam Uosukainen – who later became the first woman speaker of the Parliament in Finland – she was a strong promoter of this movement.
We started in a few years’ time, so we had hundreds of active users of that internet address – free net Finland –  where we really participated in Tele Olympic Global activities, we had some of our schools collaborating with NASA, taking a space odyssey through this internet and so on. What I learned from that, was that we needed to do some kind of a bench learning process. To look where the other key innovators aren’t and try doing that. Try to do something better. Something that encourages people to do more. And I have used that ever since as an example that if you rely on the young generations to – what Mr. Timmermans was referring to – this first internet Society.
Allowing those born after 89 – those who were not even at school yet, but in the kindergarten age –  to show what they can do with computers, how they play the Civilization game and learned
their the role of libraries. What civilization really means. What you can do when you have different options in front of you. 

This is what we have actually been doing very much today with our cities and regions, challenging them to operate in this globalized digital economy, tackling the demographic dynamics and issues, even what we are having – the big societal challenges. 

We regularly now, in the last couple of years been calling for forerunners, stating it even in our official opinions, which we address to the parliament and to the commission. We need more and more of these forerunners, actors, but we have stated that every city or every region can be a pioneer. 
They can do something that they have not done in the past, and others can learn from that. But then we need to encourage more European partnerships. 
Partnerships that nowadays are coming through the smart specialization strategy. Every region in Europe has to find their own spearhead, based on Smart specialization or the Innovative approach for tackling these societal challenges or using, as we stated, this mass specialization.

It is above all an economic transformation agenda, where the policymakers needs to take a strong role to act and encourage their own region to be more operating. On the only policy making
base robust evidence provided by scientists and used in the right political, economic and
social context, that current is a better response to these societal challenges – they can,
through this meet citizens needs locally. 

That is why we, with our 5-year priorities, which approved a plenary two years ago, we started our first priority: the fresh Economic Development. Creating sustainable growth, creating new jobs, we started that with the words bottom-up approach.
Meaning with that, that we have defined three different key instrumental chains of priorities. The first one was this entrepreneurial mindset, we need more of that in Europe. With all generations. But especially we can learn a lot from the youth. 

The second was then the digital single market, or as we have said, that it needs to be as soon as possible, a fully functioning digital single Market. On that, we are doing a lot with DG CONNECT, with Vice-president Ansip and the others. 

The third was this mass specialization, so that we can have more partnership. We can use the latest knowledge, best experiences, best practices and start sharing more of this collaboration mentality and doing more things together. Creating critical mass. Not only locally but through this network.
This is something that when now we are looking for – after 2020 -set financial frame as well. We are very strongly stressing that we need cohesion policy. Of course, we need that for every region – and funding for that. 
But it is targeted especially for this Regional partnership. So that we can do more together, using the
best knowledge available. And that is very much evidence based knowledge. And on that –
we have challenged our members last spring, when I openly called for that I would need some 20, 30, 50 stories as our members, to tell your story on what way, how your own city or region is a forerunner as a regional innovation ecosystem. 
Encouraging that the whole ecosystem thinking. Because those ecosystems are integrating what we have in the research program so the scientific excellence, industrial leadership and the society innovation.
Integrating these to work more together. And on this ecosystem thinking, on that we have
got and published – as a report – this Regional Innovation ecosystem.
You can find that from our website – going to that and read those – it is interesting to see, because we gave them a frame: authors, our mayors, regional presidents – we gave them a frame and asked
them specially to highlight what are the new elements, how they organize their local policy collaboration – what is the policy model, what is the collaboration model –
and then this European partnership model as well.
And on that, we have created quite a lot of positive strong feedback with the mayor of Amsterdam talking about inclusiveness. That again, is strongly linked to this open Society, open innovation – using the modern technologies, getting citizens much stronger on board and creating their own
The mayor of Gdansk in Poland, Paweł Adamowicz wrote about how they are using digitalization in renewing their own city processes. The role of cities is really changing a lot, we can today say that what is one of the major targets with this level is really that we need citizens to be catalysts of this change.

This digital future. Building and seeing the city as a platform – this platform economy is coming strongly. It is not only for certain businesses, like Uber or so on, but it is really that cities openly changing the mentality so that the services are provided partly by the citizens themselves partly by the third sector or business organizations small or large – and their combinations. 
The city itself is kind of developing these concepts and processes so that they can be created in a different way, positively competing with each other. That makes a lot of sense through this so that we can really create a lot.

Mr. Hu stressed the crucial role of broadband and that is something that with Mr. Ansip we are working on, this kind of broadband platform so that we can encourage what are the new developments needed. Not only in financing investments but how that can be created. I strongly believe that it is the digitalization – we have now cross the level that we can really have this new development in our active use. 

Thank you very much.

Day 1