Bilbao a city with an important industrial past throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, which has to reinvent itself as a result of the crisis in the 80´s going through a tough transition and developing into a city that incorporates new economic activities such as Culture and Tourism, without the loss of its industrial character.

The urban transformation of the city

Bilbao underwent from the 1990s a process of urban regeneration addressing the physical decline of the city after being highly dependent on those activities (notably, shipbuilding and steel industry) more severely hit by the economic crisis of the 1980s. This process largely focused on environmental improvements and physical renewal has given way to a policy-framework where economic development has become dominant.

This transition takes place through a strategic plan which focuses strongly on the Administration and on a public-private collaboration model, leading to a process of urban innovation and conversion to a knowledge society, where knowledge is made available to all members in society.

Very briefly, the transformation hinged upon 5 pillars:

  • Environmental regeneration: cleaning up of a highly polluted river.
  • Improvement of mobility (both external and internal): emergence of the Metro Line, port-extension, new airport, tramway,…
  • Urban regeneration: making the city citizen-friendly and liveable, creation of new urban spaces, removing urban barriers,…
  • Culture as a driving force of economic regeneration: Guggenheim Museum, bringing art to the city,…
  • Education.

Public cooperation and institutional alignment have been critical for the success of Bilbao in its process of urban regeneration.To carry it out, the public institutions created the instruments most suited to the task: BILBAO METRÓPOLI 30 (Public-Private Partnership´s success model ) ,BILBAO RÍA 2000 (Public society formed by institutions of the State and the Autonomous Community of Basque Country ( ) , technology parks and agencies of economic development.

Our vision

The European Cities must currently respond to major strategic challenges such as aging population, global economic crisis, changes in the use of energy and natural resources, technological breakthroughs, global environment, security risks, absorb increasing migration and so on.

Bilbao designs its “Smart city strategy” based on a combined approach in the different Visions:

  • Vision of Planning and Processes: City that takes into account broader planning considerations and needs of the city and plans initiatives based on intelligent goals of the city
  • Vision Analytics and Logics: A city that uses statistics and data to analyze the city’s problems and identify solutions
  • Vision Relational and Emotional : A city that focuses on connecting with clients: citizens, residents, tourists, etc. and listen to them to understand their emotions and needs and respond to the emotions and opinions of people
  • Vision Holistic and Experimental : City that involves experimental thinking and the use of creativity to explore solutions and solve problems

Challenges in Bilbao Smart Strategy:

Our idea is to work as an innovative city following state of the art management models which lead to a sustainable city, open to the world, designed to achieve an economic and social development, and most important  a city designed for people.

In the line of becoming a kind, cohesive, active, safe and innovative city, initiatives and strategies are proposed in the different management areas of the city:

  • Smart Governance: Trying to improve the capacity to efficiently manage resources, implement policies and adequately match the interests of citizens, social organizations, companies and administrations.
  • Smart Economy: Improving the city’s capacity to develop in terms of employment, economic and financial growth.
  • Smart People: Promoting initiatives related to the city’s human capital, education, social inclusion and citizen collaboration.
  • Smart Mobility: With the aim of reducing congestion and promoting faster, greener and cheaper transportation options.
  • Smart Living: Promoting health and well-being to improve the quality of life for citizens and visitors
  • Smart Environment: Seeking to be sustainable in the future, through the analysis of the natural environment, physical structures of energy, water and urbanism and adapt the consumption to the occupation, in addition to predicting the needs of maintenance and reduction of waste

Towards a new economy: from urban transformation to knowledge economy

Bilbao is currently involved in the regeneration of Zorrotzaurre ( This is the latest major urban renewal project in the city. It can be regarded as a comprehensive approach to integrated sustainable urban development aimed at the recuperation of a currently quarter site to create a new district with some interesting aspects to be highlighted: well-connected to the rest of the city (through sustainable transport), affordable housing, environmentally-friendly business areas and green areas. It is not just about physical regeneration but about deploying an Integrated Sustainable Urban Strategy in line with the new emerging knowledge districts designed as major drivers of growth in cities. Bilbao is focused on the creation of a new economic and social fabric based on creativity, innovation and new technologies.

It should be noted that the project is benefiting from different EU-funded initiatives (Horizon 2020; Urban Innovative Actions; 2014-2020, Sustainable Operational Programme). Needless to say that this EU financial contribution will pave the way for the progress of the different actions envisaged.

International Awards and Recognitions :

Finally, it is worth highlighting that the process of urban transformation and economic regeneration has not remained unnoticed. The city´s transformation has been widely recognised to the extent that Bilbao was awarded the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize in 2010 ( This prize awards cities with a proven record of success in the area of urban regeneration.

As far as the economic dynamism of Bilbao is concerned, according to the Financial Times (FDi Magazine), the city ranks fourth in the 2016/17 Mid-Sized European Cities of the Future category (i.e. cities with a population between 200,000 and 750,000). In other words, Bilbao can be regarded as an attractive location for business development.