Mr. Wim Dijkman, Advisor Economy & Innovation Economics Municipality of Leeuwarden shared its experience about the study visit hosted by Fomento San Sebastian: 

"In liaison with the INTERREG-project UpgradeSME, we’re given the possibility to have bilateral partnermeetings in June and July 2022. The goal of this meeting was to share and discuss the different initiatives regarding export and other learnings.

We were invited at the Talent House, which lies on top of a hill in San Sebastian and from where you have a beautiful view on the two bays of the city.

In the morning programme, the two partner regions took the time to introduce and familiarise a bit more. Next, Yesenia and Xabier told us on the status quo if the organisation and took us around the abstract, beautiful building.

The Talent House is a plan created with a view to promoting the engagement of high-level talented professionals and researchers by centres, universities and businesses in San Sebastian. It offers a one-stop-shop with regards to a welcoming service, accommodation services and services for companions.

The aim of the project is to increase the scientific community in San Sebastian, to encourage integration and to socialise scientific and technological knowledge. It facilitates this by generating a physical and virtual network linked to R&D/Innovation.

Talent House offers 80 apartments of different types and communal areas to help the researcher and the family to settle in the city. They have a waiting list for the apartments and therefore they have created utmost advanced plans to build a second accommodation, where knowledge from all over the world is finally located.

As from the example above, it could be recognised that the region imports knowledge. Another instrument which they use, lies in the example of talent funding. They do this at four different stages.

The first and most recognised is Innovative Talent Funding, in which students from the region are offered a paid internship abroad at an innovative company by choice. They’re offered €1530.- monthly. Next is the Local Talent Return Funding principle. More than ever, young people migrate to the bigger cities in Spain to study and find their new homes. By encouraging the recruitment of young people originally from San Sebastian who currently reside outside Basque Country, it tries to tackle this brain drain. The other two instruments for professional development of the city can be found in the EKIN+Programme, which supports the creation, promotion, growth and consolidation of innovative enterprises in San Sebastian and the programme of ‘San Sebastian Retail Pop-Up’, which offers advice, tutoring and testing of business ideas in San Sebastian’s retail sector.

We learned that the development of capacity and the availability of absolute targeted funding creates an ecosystem that may flourish in the coming years and business will thrive.

After the guided tour from Yesenia and Xabier, we went back upstairs and continued to share and discuss on the Good Practices during Covid-19. The points that San Sebastian highlighted were based on welcoming people, which is two-folded. Firstly, welcoming tourists. San Sebastian’s tourism-industry goes back to the 19th century and is now one of the bigger contributors to the regional GDP. The other predominant contributor is the advanced technology industry. This sector had problems with influx of qualified personnel from abroad.

The moment we discussed the challenges in our region in the Netherlands, we came to the conclusion that we’re not that different, thus encompassing the global challenges as well, such as bot not limited to scarcity of raw materials and qualified personnel.

At the end of the meeting, the project partners believed new opportunities could arise from this study visit. The municipality of Leeuwarden and Business Development Friesland made clear that they will help Fomento de San Sebastian to host the PhD students abroad, for example at the world renowned WaterCampus, or Wetsus.

On the other hand, the municipality of Leeuwarden is discovering the possibilities on building a talent house as well, together with the knowledge institutions and the province of Fryslân. Fomento de San Sebastian could provide us with lots of, normally almost inaccessible, information on how to integrate this.

Overall, the study visit was well organised, interesting and good for the connections between the project partners, since this was the first trip since the Covid-19 pandemic. Further steps will follow in the near future to enhance our cooperation."