San Sebastián ranked top talent attraction strategy location in a comparative survey of smart Spanish cities

A 2019 survey by the Madrid Polytechnic Transport Research Centre ranked San Sebastián top talent attraction and retention location among 27 medium-sized smart Spanish cities. The report considers that a smart city must focus on talent as a key attraction, and demonstrate clear support to enable qualified individuals to move into the job market or to create new activities. San Sebastián also takes first place in terms of governance, mobility and intellectual capital, it has a positive record of progress as a Smart City, and is one of the top ten cities in all the categories considered in the appraisal. The city was ranked top talent attraction and retention strategy location in due consideration of the measures implemented by San Sebastián Economic Development (“Fomento de San Sebastián”), such as its municipal facilities (Talent House) and residence programmes to attract external talent (Connecting Talent Residences Programme), and also talent-return programmes.

Economic Promotion councillor Enrique Ramos said “we are proud that the talent attraction strategy we have been working on for years has now been acknowledged. We have made a huge effort to consolidate major projects such as the Residences Programme, which provides economic assistance for those wishing to undertake innovative projects in our city, Talent Return grants, and the successful Talent House building to provide accommodation for researchers, to be extended with the future Talent House II, plans for which are already underway.”

The courses of action analysed to carry out the talent attraction and retention survey were municipal facilities for people using the city for personal development, accommodation programmes (a place to stay and economic assistance) for professionals and innovative entrepreneurs from outside the city, specific talent-return programmes, and support for local organisations to take on highly qualified professionals.

In the case of San Sebastián, the main asset for those wishing to pursue their professional career in the city is the Talent House, a residential building opened in 2011 as the initial hosting plan to capture quality talent/researchers for centres, universities and businesses in Donostia. In 2019 it took in 310 researchers and their families. Turning to accommodation programmes for professionals from outside Donostia, Fomento de San Sebastián continues to operate the Residences Programme to co-fund travel expenses up to 50%, a monthly allowance of up to 750 €, accommodation in San Sebastián, a work space, consultancy and expert guidance. The “Talento Innovador” and “Investiga” programmes to hire young people with qualifications are also up and running.

San Sebastián is ranked first in terms of governance, followed by the cities of Vitoria-Gasteiz and Castellón de la Plana, in second and third place respectively. San Sebastián was awarded the top score for Mobility, with a clear advantage over Granada and Logroño, which shared second place. San Sebastián took first place in the Intellectual Capital ranking, with Pamplona as runner-up. San Sebastián was ranked third in terms of Environmental Sustainability among the 27 Spanish cities considered, and also took third place in Economic Development.

The survey also revealed that the Smart City Plans securing the maximum score were those devised by Granada, Terrassa, San Sebastián and Castellón de la Plana. These plans, implementation of which is now underway, concern the six issues of a smart city, and their strategic focus and targets have been defined, along with an action plan for a timeframe already marked out. They also have a specific section on the website, and the plan is available for public scrutiny.

The 27 cities analysed in the survey have populations of between 150,000 and 250,000 and, although they account for only 0.33% of Spanish municipalities, they represent 11.38% of the country’s total population. The cities are: Vitoria-Gasteiz, Fuenlabrada, A Coruña, Alcalá de Henares, Granada, Leganés, Elche, San Sebastián, Oviedo, Getafe, Terrassa, Burgos, Badalona, Albacete, Cartagena, Santander, Jerez de la Frontera, Castellón de la Plana, Sabadell, Alcorcón, Móstoles, Santa Cruz de la Laguna, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Logroño, Pamplona, Badajoz and Almería.