27 July 2021

The self-professed unique city of Guimarães in Portugal is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in recognition for being an "exceptionally well-preserved and authentic example of the evolution of a medieval settlement into a modern town" in Europe, according to UNESCO. The Intelligent Cities Challenge (ICC) spoke with the city to find out all about its progress on the Upskilling and reskilling thematic track. 


Sunset over Guimarães


We heard from the three members of Guimarães’ ICC City Team, which consists of: 

  • Sérgio Gonçalves, part of the Political Team in the city of Guimarães and in charge of economic development and the IT sector. Regarding ICC, Sérgio is responsible for actions integrated in urban intelligence, namely sustainable and smart cities. 
  • Patrícia Ferreira,  who is also part of the Political Team in the city of Guimarães and who focuses on projects related to environmental sustainability, upskilling, reskilling and career guidance. 
  • Head of the Intelligence and Information System Division in Guimarães and ICC city representative, Ricardo Machado, who takes action towards integration in urban intelligence, mainly with sustainable and smart cities. 

“Guimarães is a unique city, in its vision for the future and in its content.” 

Through the ICC, Guimarães hopes to maximise its capacity to innovate in order to develop solutions for the urban ecosystem, which seeks to improve the citizens' quality of life and ultimately make the city more intelligent and sustainable. 

Inspired by a holistic and polycentric governance model and using a five-fold helix approach integrating the Municipality, economy, universities, knowledge centres and the community in a sustainable structure, Guimarães aims to build inspiring development spaces. These spaces will be a place for innovative urban solutions to show how they can transform cities into intelligent ones that serves as an example to others. 

This strategy towards a digital and holistic city is combined with several other important actions and concepts: sustainable development goals, the concepts of society 5.0, urban happiness, upskilling and reskilling practices, the 15-minute city and creating responsible digital citizens. Guimarães will use the ICC best practices from other ICC cities to replicate and adapt them to the needs of the city, particularly on the thematic tracks of Local Green Deals, Upskilling and reskilling and Green and digital transition in tourism. 

“We believe that it is important to provide people with new working tools, it is fundamental to help them develop critical thinking skills as well as other soft skills, in order to obtain the best results,” says Patrícia Ferreira. 

Several projects related to the field of upskilling and reskilling are currently underway in Guimarães, these include: 

Digital Academy - The Digital Academy aims to leverage digital skills and the digitization of production processes in the city's industrial and business ecosystem. 

Skills Academy - The Skills Academy hopes to implement: digital trainings and complementary professional trainings to both the Municipality’s current and unemployed workers, a soft skills training programme, strengthen digital skills work with the student population by enhancing the areas of creativity and innovation framed in the STEAM model.  Additionally, this Academy intends to provide the population with skills at the digital level and prepare them for the systematic use and renewal of these tools.  

Career Guidance Programme - A career guidance project for students in 9th grade implemented by school psychologists aims to guide students through a process of self-exploration. It will establish links between their interests and their skills to build a skills portfolio whilst also providing information about professional careers to assist their future career choices. This programme includes additional activities with local business and professionals. 
Thinking about their COVID-19 pandemic recovery, Guimarães has its sights set on several areas:

  1. The use and collection of urban data as a more systematic and extended process that will allow the city to make more sustainable and insightful decisions.  
  2. Smooth collaboration between knowledge centres, business fabrics and governance in the construction of a territory of the future. 
  3. Technology to be viewed as a fundamental dimension in this new economy, with the citizen at the centre of its priorities.  
  4. Creating so-called Ecodigizens - responsible ecological and digital citizens – and sustainable and smart communities aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 17. 

Guimarães aims to overcome the post pandemic challenges by maintaining and reinforcing the economic measures and policies for supporting the local economy. For example, with Proximcity - a hybrid marketplace and ecommerce digital app for local stores that aims to uplift local commerce, or the financial support aimed at exempting fees from operating costs of local companies, such as water and electricity among others. 

“An experience of true knowledge sharing” 

According to Patrícia Ferreira, “the ICC allows us to know the best practices around European cities, namely the expert cities in this thematic track, from whom we can get valuable contributions to adjust those practices to our territory and our plans.” The city hopes to improve its local strategy through establishing collaboration protocols between ICC networks. The Guimarães’ ICC City Team further expressed hopes for the ICC to be an opportunity to create a framework to exchange ideas and allow cities to learn from each other, “ultimately turning the ICC into an experience of true knowledge sharing”. 

“We do not only design these projects for our city; we design them for the wider region. The main objective for Guimarães is to be a lighthouse city for further projects that will appear in the European Commission. Some Portuguese cities are interested in the projects we are doing here. We will present those projects to them. We are also going to organise webinars to promote the ICC project to interested cities. We believe that the ICC project will enrich cities with new experiences and new, fresh ideas,” declares Ricardo Machado.