Verónica García (Madrid, 1977) is the current director of Fundación Ibercaja’s Mobility City project. With a degree in Marketing from the Autonomous University of Madrid and a degree in Commercial Management and Marketing from ESIC Business & Marketing School, García has more than two decades of experience in the management of companies in the textile and automotive sectors, a background that includes the founding of her own company.
The director of Mobility City takes stock of a unique project in the world, which in just eight months after its founding has received 165,000 visits, of which 8.5% have been high-level professional visitors. An initiative that seeks to show the mobility of the future from a unique building, the Bridge Pavilion (the work of the sadly deceased Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid), a luxury container for a vast ecosystem of content that encompasses the most innovative things currently available in the field of mobility. A space that serves as a museum, a meeting place for professionals, companies, universities and startups, and a promoter and disseminator of the latest in relation to mobility.
What does this new professional challenge mean for your career in the world of business management?
Leading this project is an exciting and passionate challenge, as I believe challenges should be, and I must first thank the Ibercaja Foundation, and in particular its general director José Luis Rodrigo, for trusting me to lead it.
What challenges do you face as director of the Mobility City project?
As a project, we have a clear objective: to make this space a reference site on the mobility of the future. This goal is based on the areas in which Mobility City is organized. On the one hand, the museum part. On the other, the business ecosystem area. And on the other, the area related to events and informative activities. As a project, we seek to show the mobility of the future from different areas. My goal is to make this a reference project at national and international level, and to continue to show the latest innovation and new trends in mobility. With the challenge that this implies, because when you are talking about mobility, with the variables of innovation and new trends, the project is never static.
WE HAVE TO RETHINK THE ENTIRE TRANSPORTATION ECOSYSTEM, BOTH FOR PEOPLE AND GOODS.
Mobility City is an avant-garde project located inside a singular building, the work of the sadly deceased Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid, the first female winner of the Pritzker Architecture Prize and author of works such as the Galaxy Soho in Beijing or the Guangzhou Opera House. What does it mean for you to develop this project inside such an avant-garde building?
The space is a marvel. Recently ACES Europe was here in Mobility City at a press conference with the mayor of Zaragoza, Natalia Chueca, in which an assessment was made of Zaragoza as the capital of sport for the year 2026. In a conversation with the president of the entity, Gian Francesco Lupattelli, I told him how we have lost the capacity for wonder in today’s society. And I told him that, in spite of that, when I visited Mobility City for the first time, the building got that absolute “wow effect” in me, because, even if you see images of it on the internet, you are unable to get a spatial vision of what this place means, it still has that quality of surprise.
Zaha was a woman with a tremendous personality, who made her way in a hugely masculine environment, and was able to shine. Working here for me is a luxury, sometimes I joke, especially with people who are here for the first time, that my office is in a gladiolus leaf with shark scales, which is the idea that Zaha worked on. It is a very powerful image that makes those who do not know Mobility City understand that it is not only important what we have as content, but already the container itself is exceptional.
The project is distributed in several spaces. One of them, the Innovation Space, is located in the central passage of the bridge and is freely accessible. This area is aimed at showing the vision and proposals for the future of the most prominent brands dedicated to the mobility ecosystem. What proposals have you designed for this space for the future?
Our roadmap is to show innovation in mobility in all its aspects and variants: space, air, land mobility… also showing the part of inclusiveness, connectivity and autonomy. And within these pillars we are looking for the most innovative projects or those that incorporate the greatest innovation. It is a constantly changing space that requires the team to be very aware of trends, for which it has to be in contact with the market. For example, with regard to autonomous mobility, we are now seeing the great impact it is having on society, but research has been going on for a long time, even if it is only now that innovation is being implemented, and that is where we have to be more vigilant.
By autonomous mobility, do you mean autonomous cars?
When we talk about autonomous mobility, we tend to think of the vehicle. But, for example, in the innovation space we have a drone that is autonomous and has just been licensed in China as an air cab. It is already a reality that this vehicle can transport people without a driver in cities of fifty million inhabitants.
Zaragoza, for example, is now launching a project with an autonomous bus, in test mode. Zaragoza has always served as a model city for testing any type of product. Innovation must be tested and checked with users and real environments to see if the idea is adequate or correct. It would not be the first time that a product is launched on the market and it turns out that it does not meet the needs of the market or society.
MOBILITY CITY REQUIRES THE TEAM TO BE AWARE OF TRENDS, SO WE HAVE TO BE IN TOUCH WITH THE MARKET.
I remember an anecdote that happened in the U.S. in the 1950s. They came out with a cake that only had to be baked, it was an absolute failure, they thought of the practical part exclusively, but the people to whom the product was addressed, in those years the housewives, felt that they were not doing anything. So to make it work, they had to analyze why, interaction was needed. They changed the formula so that eggs had to be added to the mix, so that it was already felt that something of value was added to the product by the customer, and then it was a success.
When developing a product or an innovation, sometimes the market variable is not taken into account. The idea may be disruptive, unique in the world, but if you do not have a market to buy it, or if it is not adapted to the market, it will not be viable.
Another area of the complex, the Experiences Space, is an area where advanced audiovisual technologies can be used, in which gamification of content is the protagonist. How has this space full of experiences related to mobility been received by your visitors?
The balance is an absolute success, we are an absolute reference in terms of mobility. The experience part is important because we try to give the general public the ability to understand where the trend in mobility is heading. In the museum area there are touch screens that explain what mobility is, and where you can design your ideal vehicle, based on a series of parameters. And it is curious how the answers have evolved. At the beginning, when people were asked what type of driving they preferred, autonomous or not, they tended to answer that they preferred to drive themselves. But during this time we have seen how more and more people are opting for the autonomous option. In this very short period of time, at a social level we are already becoming aware that autonomous driving is also there.
Sometimes people tell me that what we have in the free access area is extremely valuable, and they ask me why we don’t exhibit it in the museum area. We come from Fundación Ibercaja and it’s nice to have that part that links us to social work with the concept of giving knowledge back to society, putting that knowledge in the open, so that everyone who wants to visit and understand it can do so.
What is your assessment of the Mobility City project since its opening on February 20 of this year?
It is a very positive balance, we have had 165,000 visits, of which 8.5% have been professional visitors. This year we have hosted the Impulse Awards, an event that has hosted 200 CEOs and senior management of the largest national companies related to the automotive industry. ANFAC, Sernauto and Faconauto, representing the automobile manufacturers, the component manufacturers and the distribution sector, the dealers, took part in the awards. We also have the presence of the Minister of Industry, Héctor Gómez. The profile of professionals who visit us is high level, attracted by the important differential value we offer.
MY OFFICE IS IN A GLADIOLUS LEAF WITH SHARK SCALES, WHICH IS THE IDEA ON WHICH ZAHA HADID WORKED.
What activities do you plan to develop within the framework of Mobility City in the short and medium term?
We are closing the 2024 agenda, and there are many new congresses, top-level activities, with exceptional speakers, and new projects in the areas of innovation, experiences and exhibitions. I invite everyone to review our publications on social networks and to subscribe to our newsletter, to keep up to date with the latest news.
Mobility City is an avant-garde project within the city of Zaragoza. What place would you like this project to occupy within the economic and cultural life of the city and the autonomous community?
One of the things that the Mobility City project makes it easier for us is to host many events. In this sense, Zaragoza has very interesting projects, the city can be proud of that. We are working to make Mobility City number one as a place of reference for companies and projects related to mobility. Our intention is that it will not only be a place of reference for Zaragoza and Aragon, but also nationally and internationally.
Mobility City is located in a state-of-the-art building that is also offered for the organization of events and business meetings.
Most of the events we hold are Mobility City’s own, which we organize or co-organize, with the aim of giving value to the companies in our ecosystem and to society. But after receiving a very high number of requests for corporate events, we finally decided to give the alternative of also sharing the space with companies or organizations so that they could hold events, as long as they meet a series of requirements to give conformity to their request. Both in terms of security and in terms of theme or object.
Mobility City puts entrepreneurs and companies in contact with each other during its Innovation Days. What is your assessment of these events to promote entrepreneurship?
At Mobility City we have several actions related to startups and entrepreneurship. For example, within Fundación Ibercaja we have a program called Salta, which works as a project accelerator, where entrepreneurs are mentored and we provide them with 360º support. You can have a great idea, but if you do not have the ability to connect with the market, in the end you will be frustrated, you will not be able to monetize that idea. With programs like these, we want startups and entrepreneurs to be able to make their projects visible and receive feedback from companies, and even make a match. By the way, we have entrepreneurs over fifty years old, entrepreneurship is usually associated with youth, but it does not have to be, you can have great ideas at any age. We have to support talent and entrepreneurship at any stage of life.
Another of your outstanding activities is the Chair with the University of Zaragoza and the University of San Jorge, which is materialized in the form of conferences in which the challenges of sustainable mobility are analyzed, particularly in the areas of connectivity and data.
The balance for me is positive because it is another of the verticals that we have here, which supports us and makes the Mobility City ecosystem alive. We try to drink from different sources of knowledge that provide us with an innovative vision, and that is also provided by the Chairs with the University of Zaragoza and the University San Jorge, and that complements the knowledge we receive from companies, startups… it is a different and complementary knowledge. The points of view on the same idea vary if you see it from the academic point of view, from the point of view of a company or from the point of view of an entrepreneur. These three verticals enrich each other and provide us with a 360º vision. An example of this is the I Mobility Congress – Zaragoza – October 2023 (mobilitycity.es) that we hosted, very interesting, and was co-organized by Ibercaja Foundation with our Mobility City project, University of Zaragoza, San Jorge University and the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC).
IN THE INNOVATION DAYS AND THE SALTA PROGRAM WE SEEK TO MAKE PROJECTS VISIBLE AND OFFER FEEDBACK FROM COMPANIES.
The promotion of sustainable mobility systems is one of the axes of Mobility City. what challenges do we face as a society in terms of sustainable mobility?
Sustainable mobility is one of the axes, but not the only one. We talk about sustainable, autonomous, connected and accessible mobility. If we talk specifically about sustainable mobility, we can say that we are increasingly aware of the environmental footprint, hence the emergence of electric vehicles and green technologies. That is what is clearing the way for us towards these healthier cities and the concept of Smart Cities. It is so important that seven of the main automotive brands have committed to this objective for 2030, and some of them for 2035, that 100% of their offer will be electric. This is a reality that is here to stay. Mobility in terms of sustainability is not only about reducing emissions, but also about rethinking the entire transportation ecosystem, both for people and goods. Here, for example, a European event was held on the Neutralpath project, which deals with different pillars such as energy efficiency, mobility, sustainable consumption, everything is related.
What would your ideal sustainable city be like?
It is something quite subjective, not everyone has the same parameters to define it. In Mobility City we have interactive touch tables where visitors, based on a series of parameters, choose their ideal city. There are ten parameters that talk about sustainability, city size, type of mobility on foot, by bicycle, or car… And we always talk to them about the parameters they have selected and how their decisions influence the configuration of their ideal city. Once you finish the experience, the algorithm shows you a real city on the planet that corresponds to your preferences. We currently have three tables, if you put three siblings on each table, each one gets a different city.
You have developed a career of more than two decades in the world of business management, in sectors as different as supplies, textiles, automotive or institutional relations. An experience that includes entrepreneurship, and that has led you, not only to the development of the so-called hard skills, but also to soft skills relevant to your current position.
I have been mainly in two very powerful sectors, which is the textile sector, with a very important technological and development part, and in the automotive sector. Regardless of the sector, business management is always the same. The product and the concept may change, but they have been very changing and demanding environments. With this level of demand, this leads you, in a silent way, to be prepared for the next stage. Everything you have experienced in an unexpected way prepares you to take your next step on a personal and professional level. In this case, being in such demanding environments, it leads you to adapt and develop a series of skills. It teaches you to be able to adapt, to not get frustrated. I envy the Americans one thing: they understand the fall and frustration as a process of personal and professional work to take you to another level. Here failure is often taken as something negative, not succeeding at the first attempt is seen as a failure, and it is not like that. Everything requires learning. Sometimes you need to get frustrated to get back on your feet, to rise above the situation and grab things with strength and move forward.
MOBILITY CITY HOSTED THE FIRST SPANISH MOBILITY CONGRESS THIS YEAR.
I have managed to have a creative thinking, despite being a very organized person, I have these two sides that are very different, normally creative people are not usually so structured. That I fit the Mobility City project, and that the project fit me, was not a single reason. It was the combination of various skills, abilities and experiences.
Was it love at first sight?
Yes, when I was approached about Mobility City, I fell in love with the project.
What challenges does a female manager face when it comes to business and team management in such masculinized sectors?
Thanks to the work done by many women, who do the triple somersault backflip every day, we are evolving socially. It is not thanks to one person, it is thanks to the grain of sand that many women make a real effort. I am lucky to have one of my grandmothers alive, she is 98 years old, and it is great to listen to her, because sometimes we lose that connection with our past. Many of the things she says are very relevant and make a lot of sense in the present. Socially we are evolving and we are seeing more and more women in management. I would like to see more and more women in top management. I started working very young and the environment was much more masculine than it is now. You always had to put a lot more of yourself to show that you could, and even that you were better. I strongly believe in meritocracy, in my team I have very valuable men and women, it is not a question of gender or age, but of ability. I have managed all-male teams, ten years older than me, and the challenge at the management level has been the same as if they had been all women.
The two people who have helped me to be the way I am, to have the confidence I have, have been my father and my grandfather. They taught me that I could go wherever I wanted to go and that I could be whatever I wanted to be. It is a very simple message, but tremendously powerful. We have to cultivate these messages and tell ourselves that.
What specific elements of value does female leadership bring to the development of projects and the management of companies and teams?
I don’t like to evaluate in terms of “masculine” or “feminine”, it is more a question of skills, abilities, aptitudes and personality. But it is true that female leadership tends to be more collaborative, more empathetic and more goal-oriented and problem-solving. Perhaps derived from the “triple somersault backwards” we do on a daily basis, we have developed, like the Indian goddess Shakti, several arms that each support a different issue.