oThe Council of Ministers has chosen the city of Seville as the headquarters of the future Spanish Space Agency, and A Coruña, to house the Artificial Intelligence Agency.
This was confirmed by the Minister for Territorial Policy and Government spokesperson, Isabel Rodríguez, at the press conference after the Council of Ministers meeting on Monday. The Central Government thus fulfills its objective of locating the headquarters of newly created public bodies outside Madrid. Both decisions have been taken unanimously, as explained today by the minister spokesperson.
Seville has been selected among 21 locations that were competing to house the new body, which will depend on the Ministry of Science. The Seville capital’s candidacy, backed by the Junta de Andalucía, offered an “excellent venue” valued at 6.7 million euros and ceded to the Agency at no cost by the City Council, equipped and in accordance with the requirements with a unique building and for exclusive use already available and appropriate to the activity, as explained in a press release by the Ministry of Territorial Policy, which has been in charge of directing the selection process. The building that will house the new entity is the Center for Advanced Business Resources (CREA). In addition, Seville offered four other possible alternative locations.
The important presence of companies in the aerospace sector in Andalusia has also weighed in on the decision, with 152 entities throughout the community, 64 of them located in the capital itself. To this is added the existence of four universities and 22 research groups and five public organizations linked to space, according to Territorial Policy.
The idea of locating the space agency in Seville had an important boost three years ago, when the city hosted a key meeting of the ministers of the 22 member countries of the European Space Agency. At that meeting, a historic contribution of 14.4 billion euros to the budget of this organization was closed, an achievement in which the then Minister of Science, Pedro Duque, played a prominent role.
The constitution of the space agency, attached to the Ministries of Science, which is held by Diana Morant, and Defense, which is directed by Margarita Robles, is scheduled for the first quarter of 2023. The Government hopes to also create the Governing Council within that period and complete the process to appoint its director, according to sources from the Ministry of Science.
Seville was the great candidate to house the headquarters of what would be the Spanish NASA. The Andalusian capital was, in fact, the first to apply. “As soon as we learned about the open process, we had no doubts. It cost very little to reactivate the ecosystem that already existed in the city in favor of the project”, the mayor of Seville, Antonio Muñoz Martínez, admitted to CincoDías a few days ago. The mayor recounted how the Andalusian capital had a large part of the work already done, since for years there has been great public awareness and the economic world about the importance of promoting the aerospace sector. Proof of this is the presence of the aeronautical and defense giant Airbus, with two plants with more than 3,000 workers in Seville. For its part, the Andalucía Aerospace Cluster invoices 2,400 million euros and has 14,500 employees.
The Government’s commitment to this balanced distribution of State institutions to end the concentration of public bodies in the capital Madrid opened up an unexpected political front for it a few months ago. Aragón, chaired by Javier Lambán, one of the main barons of the PSOE, and Teruel Existe, which is among Pedro Sánchez’s most reliable partners, announced in October that they will appeal the requirements to locate the Spanish Space Agency in court, understanding that discriminates against unpopulated areas and, therefore, would go against the spirit of an equitable presence throughout the territory of the headquarters of the newly created national entities.
The Executive’s decision also represents a setback for Castilla y León, where three towns —the cities of León and Palencia and the town of Cebreros— competed to host the new body. León’s candidacy received an important boost last week when the European Space Agency announced the first two Spanish astronauts in 30 years, both born, raised and educated in this city.
The idea of creating a Spanish space agency is part of the new National Security Strategy that was presented in May 2021. The creation of this agency is an old demand of the sector that insists that Spain needs a unique vision regarding the space sector , with an organism, that coordinates and gives stability. In 2015 the Ministries of Economy and Competitiveness, as well as Public Works, Defense and Industry began to work on this future space agency as a body that would bring together all the competencies in space matters.
The Council of Ministers agreed in September to start the procedure to establish the physical headquarters of the future Spanish Agency for the Supervision of Artificial Intelligence (AESIA), which today has been decided to have its headquarters in A Coruña. With this, the Government highlighted, Spain will become the first country in the European Union with a State Agency for the supervision of Artificial Intelligence (AI), taking precedence over the entry into force of the future European AI Regulation, which establishes the need to that the Member States have a supervisory authority in this matter. The creation of the State Agency is contemplated in the National Artificial Intelligence Strategy and has an item of 5 million euros for its implementation in the General Budgets of 2022.
According to the Government, the State AI Supervision Agency will enjoy autonomy, independence, its own assets and administrative powers. It will be key to ensure compliance with European regulation on AI and to supervise the correct interpretation of it. In addition, it aims to raise awareness about the impact of Artificial Intelligence on society, with the aim of generating trust in a respectful and guaranteeing ecosystem in the use of this technology. In this sense, the Agency’s main mission is to minimize the risks that AI can bring in fields such as security, privacy and people’s health, as well as other fundamental rights.
The designation as headquarters of the Spanish Artificial Intelligence Agency has been received with euphoria in the academic and political institutions of A Coruña. The city has turned to defending this candidacy headed by the University of A Coruña, which was first chosen by the Xunta against those of Santiago and Ourense in a hard-fought process where 200 indicators were valued.
Among the strengths of the A Coruña project is the fact that its metropolitan area concentrates a good part of the ICT sector in Galicia. A Coruña is the municipality with the most companies in this sector (700) and is home to 60% of the turnover and more than 45% of the jobs generated by the community in the field of new technologies (7,200 jobs). It also has the so-called ICT City, a pole of digital innovation that will be built in the old facilities of its historic weapons factory. It will house an industrial park, a technology campus and an artificial intelligence business incubator. Behind the candidacy “there is a 30-year job”, highlights Amparo Alonso, professor of Computing and Artificial Intelligence at the University of A Coruña and coordinator of the ICT City.
Three decades ago the Faculty of Informatics was founded in A Coruña, the incubator of “talent” on which “little by little” an “ecosystem” of very powerful technology companies has been built, highlights Alonso, who until recently was president of the Spanish Association of Artificial Intelligence. This AI researcher explains that the Coruña area is not only the headquarters of technology-producing companies of various sizes, but also important companies that are “consumers” of these advances, such as the textile giant Inditex.
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