Functional institutions play a key role in political planning processes

ESPON IMAGINE - Focus Group “Milan-Bologna: the economic functions”

On 5 November 2020, the focus group "Milan-Bologna: the economic functions" was held online as part of the ESPON IMAGINE targeted analysis ( with the involvement of representatives of the chambers of commerce, the multi-utility companies, the economic and logistic operators and the research technopoles of the Milan-Bologna urban region. They have been invited to discuss, each from their own perspective, the relations and interactions in place between the economic, logistic and utilities functions in the system that extends from Milan to Bologna.

Looking for a new governance approach for the development of a regional imaginary and an integrated territorial development

The Focus group on the economic functions of the Milan-Bologna area has been an important occasion for a mutual knowledge and sharing of the objectives of IMAGINE targeted analysis. It is part of a program of focus groups and regional workshops promoted by Globus et Locus, Politecnico di Milano and Sciences Po, and aimed at local governments and the stakeholders of the main economic and territorial functions, to discuss with them the feasibility of a new governance approach for the development of a regional imaginary and an integrated territorial development between Milan and Bologna.

In his introduction, Piero Bassetti, President of Globus et Locus, has underlined that territorial and functional institutions (such as chambers of commerce, universities and research centers, interest associations, banking foundations, etc.) are increasingly called upon to play a key role in the construction of new governance and political planning processes open to dialectic of interests and values based on knowledge and new social practices, which find their expression in urban areas, in intermediate territories and in the polyarchic relationships between them.

Vision of the Milan-Bologna wide area territorial system

In this perspective, the main issues that have been discussed with the stakeholders concern: their "vision" of the Milan-Bologna wide area territorial system; the active or planned projects concerning this system or parts of it; strategic collaborations with other stakeholders and institutional subjects;  the obstacles or problems to the regulation of the economic functions that are organized in the Milan-Bologna system (e.g. difficulties in coordination between entities, differences between the regulations and strategies of the two regions, problems of infrastructural accessibility, etc.).

As regards the vision, the Milan-Bologna axis has emerged as a strong and extremely significant axis in quantitative terms, highly connected with other areas with a high rate of development, also from a European perspective. According to Patrizio Bianchi, Scientific Director of IFAB (International Foundation Big Data and AI for Human Development), the issue to be investigated is not how much this axis grows internally, but how much it can become a driving force of Italian and European growth.

Strategic collaboration in new spaces and new networks

In terms of projects, all stakeholders are rethinking their function, by innovating and operating in new spaces and new networks. There are interesting spaces for strategic collaboration, for example in the areas of logistics, agri-food, research and health. An important point emphasized by Elena Vasco, Secretary General of the Chamber of Commerce of Milan-Monza Brianza - Lodi concerns how to interconnect local resources and skills to create additional value, and how institutions can support these processes. Some stakeholders also underlined the importance to reflect on global value chains, which are built on a macro-regional and European scale. In this perspective, the extreme fragmentation of the territories and operators can be a problem especially in the field of logistics, as underlined by Massimo Spinedi, President of Interporto Bologna.

Among the main obstacles, there is still a lack of an integrated vision of the system Milan-Bologna involving both private stakeholders and institutions. There are also infrastructural problems, not only related to high speed highways and railways but also on the capillary system that defines the accessibility of secondary poles and marginal areas. It seems necessary to operate on variable geometries to intervene on the different functions. The High-speed railway can accelerate the role and the strength of this European area, especially if medium-sized cities are associated with the metropolitan areas of Milan and Bologna. In addition to the networks that connect the two metropolitan areas of Milan and Bologna, William Brunelli, head of the Environment, Safety, Power and Territory area of Confindustria Emilia Area Centro, invited to take also into account the networks that connect the smaller cities, through which very important flows pass. Milan and Bologna are certainly attractors and generators of long-range networks, but their competitiveness seems to be defined also by their short-range networks with medium cities.

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