Just a few month ago, we were presenting a new part of our ecosystem: the FIWARE ZONE, an advanced deployment of the FIWARE innovation Hubs model. Announced at the 1st FIWARE Summit, the initiative was launched with two centres being opened at the same time, one in Seville and other in Málaga, both in Andalucía and being backed-up by the local and regional governments.
After the sucessful events this week, presenting the IMPACT Growth acceleration programme in both cities, we wanted to know more about how the project is unfolding. We had the chance to talk with Juan Marcelo Gaitán, Director of Innovation Center SmarCity at Telefonica, and head responsible of the FIWARE ZONE.
The FIWARE ZONE initiative is still very recent, but it has been very active from the beginning, even from before its official launch. How would you summarize these last months?
In the few months that it has been running, the initiative is having a great implantation among the Andalusian companies. Each step we take and each event we organise is counting with the presence and interest of the public administrations, the universities and the private companies.
During these months, a number of local governments and the majority of provincial governments have been visiting us. They are asking us to tell and show them the path that they should take, to advance regarding the Smart City development.
Some institutions has shown a firm purpose to create a new center, associated to the FIWARE ZONE. They believe, as we do, in the usefulness of these kind of initiatives, both for the administration and for the technological businesses around.
We are a public-private initiative, with Telefonica and the Regional Ministry of Employment and Technological Development work towards a common aim, and with other stakeholders as important as the City Governments of Málaga and Seville. It makes the whole project even more interesting and trustworthy. A big part of the success of the initiative is due to the participation of these four entities that believe in, support and endorse the smartcities’ development, upon the FIWARE platform.
Is the project meeting its targets? Which would be the next steps to take?
Not only are we achieving our goals. We are advancing and growing much faster than we expected. That is why we intend to continue the same line of work, which is presenting such good results.
At the same time, we are working in parallel, revising our first objectives and updating and enlarging our action plan, to meet the over-demand that we are receiving.
FIWARE Zone is a noted example of the FIWARE innovation Hubs model. The vision is to unfold a global expansion plan, developing it locally and regionally. How does the FIWARE Zone works? Is it creating or attracting a community or a business environment around?
Regarding the technological companies, it is important to emphasise the pleasant surprise of receiving such great interest and involvement from them, since the very first day. There are more than 50 companies that, during the last three months, have contacted us. They are interested in the FIWARE technology and how can it be used for each one of the companies.
We have created a FIWARE working group, inside the FIWARE Andalucía Smart City cluster, with already 14 active members, aiming to spread the use of FIWARE.
On the next days, we are going to launch a call for specialised mentoring, for companies that will receive the on-site support of FIWARE experts. They will help the team members through all the learning process and to adapt their products, integrating them into a real city platform.
To which extent, each company, organisation or individual, incorporating to the FIWARE Zone programme, is joining at the same time to the global advancement of the FIWARE initiative?
That is precisely one of our main objectives: to become the bridge and the link between the local companies and Europe. We are working closely and directly with the institutions and the FIWARE Foundation, creating the appropriate mechanisms in order to offer each company within our ecosystem to become part of the FIWARE Community, automatically.
Is there any difference between each one of the FIWARE Zone centres?
None. Both centres function as one single hub. Even more: every company from Andalusia can take part, indistinctly, in whichever activity that any of the centres is organising.
To such an extent that we have the case of two different companies that, after arriving to the FIWARE ZONE centres of Seville and Málaga, realized that they solutions were compatible, and started to work together in a common product, far more attractive and more complete.
Recently, a future FIWARE Hub has been announced – to be open in The Science and Technology Park of Lleida. Do you think that the FIWARE ZONE could be an inspiration for other centres of the same kind, reaching the rest of the country and other parts of Europe? Do you see yourself giving advice about how to launch them?
We have defined a development plan, in which we firmly believe. I am sure that there are other possible options, and I am not sure to which extent what we are doing is replicable in other environments.
Having said that, if anyone want to know what we are doing, and how and why we are doing it, we will be pleased to share it. We believe in a model designed for the development of innovation and the creation of an ecosystem of companies that are basing their transforming impulse in FIWARE solutions.
Our first results seem to confirm that we are going in the right direction. Nevertheless, we should be realistic: we have just begun and we will have to wait and see the results with a wider perspective.
In April, during this first week, the FIWARE ZONE has been organising the info days about the powered by FIWARE accelerator programme, launched by IMPACT Growth. What do you expect, after these sessions?
We are very excited with the idea of the Andalusian companies being well-fitted to apply and submit their proposals to the European acceleration processes. We want to be able to compare ourselves with other ICT companies from another countries, in order to learn and to improve our competitiveness in a market that is becoming each day more and more
Will be any kind of follow-up from the FIWARE ZONE, after these sessions? Maybe supporting the companies willing to participate in the open calls, giving technical advice to a project that, from Seville or Malaga, would be part of IMPACT Growth or frontierCities2 international acceleration process?
Of course. We will try to help and give the best support to the companies that intend to be participating in these calls.
How would you describe the value of initiatives like IMPACT Growth, for backing-up the innovation and the creation of jobs and businesses?
Now, we are in the beginning of the establishment of one of the technologies with more potential for its development in the years to come. That is why it is still less well-known that it should be. We need to reach and to make it familiar for the true lead actors of this digital transformation: the companies and the entrepreneurs.
To achieve that, we need certain incentives that would help to capture their attention and to facilitate the jump “into the unknown”: to start a project now, integrating it using the FIWARE platform.
The first acceleration programme presented a strong value in order to help the dissemination of the FIWARE technologies, as well as making them more mature by use. It made the technology advance and the community grow. Now, FIWARE is being presented more as an “added value”, another important help for the projects accelerated by IMPACT Growth or frontierCities2. What has been changing in these last two years?
Without any doubt, what has changed is the community. We are more each day, adding our part, bringing FIWARE closer to the ecosystem of developers and platform integrators. We try to make them see the advantages of this standards and the many reasons why they should start to think about using it.
We are constantly receiving technological companies, visiting us because they have heard about FIWARE… but they don’t know what it is.
I think that the community is still too little and too technical. We must show how good is FIWARE, not only to the software engineers. How good it is, versus other proprietary solutions. We should be showing it also to the companies CEOs and CTOs, explaining them why they should bet on FIWARE and the benefits it will rewarding them with.
And last, one of the axis for the development of the FIWARE ZONE is the educational: that FIWARE becomes one of the digital skills being taught at the universities, maybe even in high school… That goes in line with what was said a few weeks ago, at the EU Digital Day: to grant the job creation of the future by incrementing the digital skills of the whole European population. Have you started any course of action within that focus? Which might be the role of the acceleration programmes, regarding that line of work?
We are convinced that the future goes through FIWARE. But we are even more certain that the future depends on our universities and schools. That is why is so important to introduce this knowledge in the stages previous to the incorporation to the job market.
We have reach two agreements with Andalusian universities and we are negotiating with another two. What we try to achieve is that the students of Telecomm, Computer Science and Engineering, not only will be receiving theoretical information about FIWARE, but will also be able to gain practical experience, working on IoT at our FIWARE ZONE centres.
And we are also working with different professional training and business schools, to train the teaching staff so that they will be able to give at least an introductory notion about FIWARE in their respective centres.
We think that, in a few years, there will be a growing demand of personnel with this kind of knowledge. That is why, in our programme, we have presented a priority axis in that line.