Over 60% of GDP is produced in urban agglomerations, with almost 90% of resources being consumed there. What will the space of Italian Metropolitan Cities be within this context?
Article published in L’impresa, July 2015
by Valerio De Molli (Managing Partner, The European House – Ambrosetti)
and Veronica Nicotra (Secretary-General, National Association of Italian Municipalities – ANCI)
In 2008 humanity reached an epoch-making milestone: for the first time in history, half of the world’s population – 3.3 billion people – now lives in urban areas. World-wide, the level of urbanization will continue to increase over the next 40 years, reaching the 70% threshold in 2050.
Today’s cities are increasingly the drivers of global economic and social development: urban agglomerations produce over 60% of Gross Domestic Product and consume nearly 90% of resources. What will the space of Italian Metropolitan Cities be within this context? What actors and what policies will define their development trajectories?
These are questions that the “Start City” project is intended to answer. The project is led by the National Association of Italian Municipalities (ANCI) together with Intesa Sanpaolo and The European House – Ambrosetti, and is touching down in all 14 Italian Metropolitan Cities, encountering the principal actors in local politics and economics in one each of them. A real “journey” in the nascent metropolitan institutions, supervised by a high-profile Scientific Committee made up of the urban development expert Juan Álvaro Alayo (former Development Planning Director of the public agency Bilbao Ría 2000 that promoted the regeneration of the metropolis of Bilbao), the architect Mario Cucinella (Founder and President of Studio MCA – Mario Cucinella Architects) and Ferruccio de Bortoli (President of Longanesi, President of VIDAS and former Editor-in-Chief ofCorriere della Sera).
One year after the approval of Law 56/2014, better known as the “Delrio Law”, the Metropolitan Cities are now an institutional reality in Italy. This is a revolution in the system of local autonomies, which had waited 25 years for a reform to be implemented that would give the territorial systems differentiated governing models on the basis of their population, social and economic characteristics.
The Metropolitan Cities in Italy are a system composed of over a thousand municipalities, or communes, that together constitute the “backbone” of the national economy. In the ordinary-statute regions the Metropolitan Cities account for 11% of the surface area of the territory but have over 30% of the population. They produce more than a third of national value added and contain 20.3% of the railway stations and a third of the airports that had traffic in excess of 10,000 passengers in 2012. They are also the territories that provide the most concrete evidence that they are able to produce innovation: the data of the Ministry of Economic Development on patents for 2014 show that 53.2% of the applications were presented in the territories of the Metropolitan Cities (considering also the territories of the corresponding provinces in the special-statute, or autonomous, regions). Of the approximately 1,200 projects uploaded onto ANCI’s Smart City platform, 40% are located in metropolitan territories.
In today’s globalized world, the Metropolitan Cities are a key element for ensuring the human and financial resources necessary for development. The Metropolitan Cities – thanks to their critical mass and to the systematization of competencies and strategic functions – are becoming the hubs of the national economy.
The Metropolitan Cities can also give birth to a new conversation with the world of the economy and business, thus making up a more than decade-long delay that Italy has accumulated with respect to the other European countries.
Looking at experiences abroad, metropolitan areas are indeed privileged institutional interlocutors for economic actors. A research conducted in 2014 by Cittalia – Fondazione ANCI Ricerche and ICOM – Istituto per la Competitività showed that, in Europe, the metropolitan institutions have equipped themselves with permanent instruments for partnership and collaboration with the economic sector. Among the most noted cases is that of the London Enterprise Panel (LEP), a permanent body whose membership includes enterprises and their representative bodies, metropolitan authorities (Greater London Authority), metropolitan municipalities, and mobility agencies. The task of the LEP is drawing up, updating and implementing the London Strategic Plan. LEP is flanked by the International Business Advisory Council for London, a consulting body made up of 46 local financial and economic leaders whose objective is to accompany the decision-making process in regard to the development and competitiveness of the metropolis.
The link between enterprise and metropolitan institutions is even stronger in Germany, where, on account of the federal nature of the State, the 11 Metropolregionen have differentiated legal personality.
Some are characterized as private-law associations or mixed-capital companies, configuring themselves as governance tools that, taking their place alongside the institutional system of the municipalities and counties, promote the competitiveness of the territory and define its development trajectories.
In Italy, a reading of the statutes of the Metropolitan Cities shows that they are fully aware of the role that they find themselves assuming in the promotion of local development and in partnering with economic actors. The statute of Milan, for example, perhaps the one that devotes most space to this topic, underscores that the Metropolitan City works to “boost public policies aimed at strengthening the connections of the metropolitan economic system with world markets and bolster the networks of local relations.”
The statutory provisions in regard to economic development and attractiveness of territories find an instrument in the Metropolitan Strategic Plan which, pursuant to Law 56, will be adopted by each Metropolitan City, with a three-year validity and annual updates. The Strategic Plan will outline the policies for the “promotion and coordination of economic and social development, also insuring backing and support for economic activities and innovative research, consistently with the vocation of the city” (Article 1, paragraph 44). The metropolitan governments find themselves faced with a brand-new challenge, where the strategic planning activities have so far been of a voluntary nature, while as a result of the reform they will be an ordinary tool of governance.
The Italian Metropolitan Cities aren’t coming to the appointment unprepared: all of them have initiated strategic planning activities in the course of the last 10 years. The case of Turin represents a pilot experience in this area. Starting in 2000 Turin began the strategic planning activities by setting up a “metropolitan conference” as a permanent venue for dialogue and elaboration. We should also cite the cases of the Metropolitan Strategic Plan of Bologna (2014), the “Metropoli Terra di Bari” Plan (2010), the Strategic Plan for the Metropolitan Area of Florence (2010) and the Strategic Plan “Piano Strategico Intercomunale dell’Area Vasta di Cagliari“ (2012).
What is changing today is the territorial extension of the Plan, necessarily anchored to institutional reform, its juridical nature, and the governance scenarios that it will determine on the territory.
Precisely this last seems to be one of the most important questions still open. The metropolitan cities are complex institutions, strongly linked to the municipalities that are their “building blocks”. The governance of development policies will therefore have to connect the municipalities, their unions, and the homogeneous zones foreseen by the law and still being defined. It will also have to create links between the institutional system and the energies expressed by the metropolitan societies.
Some Metropolitan Cities have already put in place tools for dialoguing with enterprises. This is the case of Florence, for example, which in 2014 set up a Coordination round table with the large companies operating on the territory, and of Bologna, with its Round table to protect the production heritage (“Tavolo di Salvaguardia del Patrimonio Produttivo”).
These are tools that are even more essential in a phase in which the need clearly emerges for transparency in the relationship between public and private by constituting formalized, accessible spaces for this purpose.
The “Start City” study is shedding light on the opportunities that the metropolitan reform opens up for the development and attractiveness of the territories. On the part of the institutions the hope is emerging that the metropolitan governments can stem the fragmentation of territorial governance that has so far represented a hindrance to the production of good policies for development. The demand that emerges from the productive world, on the other hand, is that of collaborative governance, open to the knowledge and proposals of the enterprises already located on the territory and of those who intend to start up entrepreneurial activities. The conclusive appointment of the research, a large national Forum planned for the end of the year, will constitute an important moment of encounter between the world of the economy and metropolitan institutions in which to take stock of a new season of strategic planning that is opening up for these crucial territories.
Managing Partner and Chief Executive Officer,
The European House - Ambrosetti