Good Practice Case Study

Degraded industrial regions – such as Zasavje in Slovenia with its former coal mines – are faced with social, economic and environmental challenges, such as unemployment, pollution and brain drain. To prosper, these areas need fresh ideas, bold visions and industrial restructuring, developed in partnership with local industry, community and citizens. The RUARDI project was a university-industry collaboration project involving an interdisciplinary student research team. It was conducted over a period of five months in 2015 and implemented within the Creative Path to Knowledge programme of the Public Scholarship, Development, Disability, and Maintenance Fund of the Republic of Slovenia.

RUARDI established cross-disciplinary and multi-stakeholder cooperation between different Faculties and research institutes of the University of Ljubljana, the city of Zagorje ob Savi (Slovenia), its local industry representatives (company Aereform), and local communities. The key aim was to conduct an interdisciplinary study which would provide recommendations for enlargement, optimization and integration of the existing city airport into the local industrial environment, community and everyday life of citizens. The long-term vision was to establish an aeronautic entrepreneurial hub for high-tech innovation and multiplication of regional social-economic development.

Aeroclub Zagorje ob Savi

SMALL RESEARCH PROJECTS THAT BRING VALUABLE EXPERIENCE

The Creative Path to Knowledge programme, supported by the Slovenian Ministry of Education, Science and Sports and the European Social Fund, enhances cooperation between higher education institutions and industry, businesses, or other non-academic organisations in short-term research & development projects. The participating students thus get the opportunity to work on real-life challenges, gaining practical experience, additional knowledge, as well as competences and skills that are increasingly important for entering the job market.

The current programme (2016-2020) value is 10.625.000,00 EUR and aims to involve at least 2700 undergraduate and graduate students, as well as 1400 non-academic experts. The programme co-finances projects that are carried out in groups of 4 to 8 students co-mentored by academic and industry/non-academic mentors, and encourages the exchange of knowledge, experience and good practices. The projects can last from 3 to 5 months. University and non-academic partners have to apply for funding – if successful, the academic mentors recruit a team of students to work on the project.

REVITALISING A DEGRADED URBAN AREA

Zasavje is one of the most affected Slovenian regions – in the time of economic crisis, the unemployment rate in the region has grown considerably. Traditional industrial sectors are labour intensive and characterized by high levels of manual work and low levels of automation. In the past years, the production was globally moving to areas with cheaper labour force. These events have further aggravated the economic situation in Zasavje, causing serious economic problems, i.e. low standard of living, low income, dependence on the social welfare system, long-term unemployment etc. These kinds of areas can benefit by introducing positive visions and by enhancing new solutions and development strategies incorporating local heritage and involving their citizens as co-creators.

Air mobility and aeronautic industry can present key integrators and drivers having positive effects on the development of environment, region, local community and entrepreneurship. The RUARDI project aimed to provide a holistic solution of expanding and integrating the existing city airport into the local community’s everyday life. Three non-academic mentors from industry and research (Aereform and IRI UL), four academic mentors (University of Ljubljana), and eight students from four different Faculties within the University of Ljubljana (Faculty of civil engineering, Faculty of architecture, Faculty of social sciences and Faculty of mathematics and physics) commenced work on the RUARDI project in January 2015.

The core of the project was the students’ research and development of solutions. Among other activities, the project team had to identify the relevant stakeholders and actors within the local community, develop the concept and mapping, conduct research and analysis, evaluate results and provide development recommendations, disseminate results and participate in multi-stakeholder meetings. During this process, the students acquired new competences and an elaborate vision of the airfield, while the collaboration between industry and university partners supported the exchange of knowledge and best practices. The interdisciplinary study resulted in a detailed, 153 pages long study report, written by the participating students and their academic and industry mentors, and has provided concrete recommendations that were later included in the city’s development strategy.

DEVELOPING SKILLS AND COMPETENCES

The learning outcomes were assessed for each student individually by the involved academic mentors, based on the activities undertaken by the student within the project and their performance. The individual assessments had to be included in the final project report, required by the funding programme. One of the most important outcomes of the collaborative project were the skills and competences developed by the involved students, including creative thinking; solving practical challenges with the solutions being feasible technically, socially, as well as financially; communication across disciplines and stakeholder groups; ability to set, formulate and implement a research process that has clear objectives and performance indicators; as well as organizational competences of working in an interdisciplinary team.

This blog article is written with reference to a good practice case study report prepared as part of the Erasmus+ University City Action Lab (UCITYLAB) Project.

MATOSINHOS LIVING LAB AIMS AT CREATING SMART, ZERO-CARBON EMISSIONS, RESILIENT, ACCESSIBLE, PARTICIPATORY AND CONNECTED NEIGHBOURHOOD

Matosinhos is a coastal city in the district of Porto. The living lab is located in a central area of the city surrounding the City Hall, where the main public services are centred, composed by several points with distinct physical, economic and social characteristics. It is an initiative of Municipality of Matosinhos, CEiiA (Centre of Engineering and Product Development), Porto Polytechnic, Metro do Porto, Efacec, among others. The overall objective of is to create a smart neighbourhood, as a low carbon space, resilient, accessible, participated and connected. It aims at testing technological solutions for low-carbon, energy efficient and reducing pollutant emissions. It acts in areas such as mobility and transport, buildings, environmental innovation and the promotion of circular economy, to decarbonize the city.

It is a project of co-creation and open innovation of products, services, software, hardware and low-carbon urban interventions, where municipalities, knowledge centres, companies, entrepreneurs and citizens interact.

Real context tests are performed for challenges like parking management, bike sharing, electrification of the fleet, traffic monitoring.

A CITIZEN-ENGAGEMENT EXPERIENCE

Matosinhos is preparing to become a living experience of what may be the cities of the future regarding the carbon intensity of daily activities. The citizens will be engaged in the creation and experimentation of cleaner and more intelligent technologies. The project also aims to promote entrepreneurship and the development of low-carbon business solutions.

In this sense, the role of the University was to develop a methodology to assess the impacts on the citizens. Indeed, the Polytechnics of Porto has created a technological tool to monitor social impact on two levels: customer perception of the use of the technologies offered by the living lab and the appropriation of the concept of “citizen centre” by them. This tool will be based on the use of the OLAP (Online Analytical Processing) cube, analysing the 3 perspectives presented of the BSC (Balanced SoreCard): customers’ perspective, learning perspective and economic-financial perspective.

MATOSINHOS LIVING LAB GOES BEYOND THE DECARBONIZATION OF THE CITY

Besides decarbonizing the city, the project’s goals include decreasing energy consumption, providing a test-bed for solutions that can be scaled to the whole city, to other cities and eventually to other countries, having a more comfortable and sustainable mobility, and promoting the use of renewable energies.

Several activities are being performed in order to achieve those goals, namely:

  • Development, testing and experimentation of innovative and integrated technological solutions, in real context, intersecting mobility, energy, buildings and connectivity
  • Promotion of strong user involvement, with the co-creation of solution
  • Evaluation of social adoption of these solutions
  • Measurement and evaluation of carbon emissions in real time powered by mobi.me (CEiiA’s mobility management platform)
  • Intelligent traffic monitoring in Matosinhos using radars and sensors
  • Placement in buses stops of real-time information monitors, managed by mobi.me, displaying the time, the atmospheric temperature and the waiting time for the incoming buses

Therefore, the project, apart from reducing the carbon emissions, intends to provide more quality in public spaces, more energetic efficiency, better life quality inside public building, improvement of road safety, increasing connectivity between citizen and all agents, and promotion entrepreneurship and new businesses creation related to low carbon solutions (development of new products and services). How? With auto sustainable lamps that measure carbon emissions, with pavement that reduces vehicle speed without drivers’ intervention, with a bike sharing system connected to the public transport system with a real time measurement of CO2 emissions spared, with an autonomous robot to support urban cleaning, among other activities and tools.

This blog article is written with reference to a good practice case study report prepared as part of the Erasmus+ University City Action Lab (UCITYLAB) Project.

MAIN PARTNERS

An initiative by the Chalmers University of Technology, Challenge Lab is a collaborative project that aims to reinforce students and the university as active part within local and regional ecosystems. It exists around the facilitation of direct conversation amongst stakeholders that, led by the students’ initiative, intend to identify contemporary issues and potential points of leverage for future action. This multidisciplinary cooperation tries to introduce systemic change in the university structure, bridging the gap between education and utilization.

Linked to their Master Thesis, participating in the Lab does not entail extra credits for its participants. Instead, it offers students the opportunity to develop their understanding of the complexity of societal challenges, applying their own vision for a sustainable future and engaging with industry, academics and municipalities to navigate the intricacies of their topic, and strengthen the accuracy of their line of questioning. Priority is given to the adequate definition of the issue, over the potential delivery of specific solutions.

Challenge Lab appeared in 2013 as a response to the resistance of societal actors to deeply engage in the conversation to solve modern urban issues. Inspired by a water management project completed in Barcelona, Prof. John Holmberg proposed the creation of an independent body within the university to promote the development of concepts in pursuit of sustainable development. This autonomy from the traditional university structure aims to combine expertise from a variety of disciplines in order to tackle complex issues such as urban mobility, waste production, housing or clean energy. One of the unique characteristics of Challenge Lab is the introduction of students as neutral, unthreatening intermediaries to drive the conversation, with the hope that business, industry, researchers and municipalities would play a more active role without the need to protect their own financial or intellectual stake. Innovation is enhanced by strict criteria of multidisciplinary research, where pairs of students allocated to specific topics are always from different academic backgrounds. This diversity aims to reflect the complexity of urban challenges, encouraging students to develop a collaborative mindset.

HOW IS THE MASTER’S THESIS COMPONENT STRUCTURED?

The Master Thesis Lab complements the standard Master Thesis module, and offers a co-creative environment for students to deliver a research project with real life impact. Each thesis is completed in pairs, accepted by the departments of Architecture and Civil Engineering; Engineering for Sustainable Development; Mechanical, Automation, Naval and Industrial Design Engineering; and Technology and Learning. It is also accepted by the Gothenburg School of Business, Economics and Law. This joint research method is considered to increase the quality of the thesis.

The semester prior to the beginning of the programme, students are introduced to fundamental sustainability principles, encouraging their own understanding of the topic and exposing them to concepts that will inform their thesis. This course, called ‘Leadership for sustainability transitions’, is part of the department of Space, Earth and Environment, and its completion increases the probability for students to be accepted to the Master Thesis Lab. Access to the programme is via open application in September-October, including a motivation statement.

After screening and a series of interviews, acceptance of candidates aims for a diverse range of students, with different background and with a flexible approach to modern urban issues.

HIGH IMPACT AND RECOGNITION OF THE PROGRAMME

The development of the Master Thesis Lab allows students to tackle modern issues while considering a wider range of perspectives. Thanks to the implementation of multidisciplinary approaches, and the focus on systems innovation, students develop a deeper understanding of the complexity of social challenges allowing for more inclusive and comprehensive research. This holistic model, and the iterative process with academics and practitioners help students deliver research that is relevant and with high level of applicability. Despite the focus of Challenge Lab being centred around the conversation between stakeholders, the consistent engagement of businesses and municipality creates an opportunity for the outcome of research projects to be developed and implemented.

With regards to the dialogue between researchers, industry and municipality, the more casual debate led by students facilitates an increase in the engagement by external stakeholders. Not being subject to the formal requirements of institutionalized exchange, representatives of businesses and governing bodies perceive the Lab as a place to discuss modern issues, support the student community and access an innovative source of ideas.

Challenge Lab received the Green Gown Award 2016, in the category of Student Engagement for Europe. These awards are organized by the Global Universities Partnership on Environment and Sustainability (GUPES), and supported by United Nations Environment Programme and the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC).

This blog article has been produced as part of the Challenge Lab Case Study Report of the UCITYLAB Project Case Study Collection.

Photo credit shutterstock.com

The Ghent Urban Academy of the Ghent University, Belgium has been working on to unite all urban stakeholders, including academics, researchers, and students as knowledge generators, along with non-academic actors to support the development of an ecologically sustainable and socially just city of Ghent. This noble cause is underpinned with a solid purpose to create a collective learning platform for various stakeholders to tackle wicked sustainability issues.

How did it all start?

The Ghent Urban Academy has had several triggers to launch itself as we know it, over the past years. The first trigger has appeared in form of a think tank, called Transition UGent that was launched in 2012 to ideate and articulate the concept of a sustainable university. The other trigger closely followed and revealed itself as the Platform for The Sustainable City of Ghent that allowedacademics to do interdisciplinary research on the topic. This platform failed because a consultancy logic became dominant and we were not able to address sustainability issues as complex or wicked problems. The Ghent Urban Academy was launched in 2017 to explore and address sustainability issues of the city and the university (as living lab) attracting students and educators to participate its main activities.

What does the academy offer?

The Urban Academy activities are multi-faced. It provides ‘urban academy sessions’ in the form of open seminars and workshops that gather urban civil servants and society actors as well as external knowledge partners. These sessions are primarily held to identify burning issues of the city/university that can later be translated into viable research questions for students to deal with.

The Urban Academy also offers a 2-semester elective course Sustainable Cities to students studying at Ghent University. The core themes of the course are redefined on a yearly basis. For example, the intake of 2018-19 was exploring the urban food issues to later develop an urban food policy brief.

Naturally, the Urban Academy offers ‘master thesis workshops’ on complex sustainability issues. Via these workshops, the Urban Academy is trying to promote the idea of interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity by inviting academic staff from different faculties together with non-academic stakeholders to diversify the vector of the research at hand.    

Cui bono?

Undoubtedly, students are the immediate beneficiaries of what the Urban Academy offers, especially in terms of educational services and research. For Ghent University at large, the Urban Academy serves as a sustainability vision and initiative generator that works on breaking down the university vision into actionable steps of strategy implementation. Ghent University educators, who are facing pedagogical challenges in the light of daunting sustainability issues, get support with the implementation and conceptualization of the sustainability education in their work. Naturally, the city of Ghent is an ultimate beneficiary of all the endeavors taken by the Urban Academy to advance the wellbeing of the city of Ghent residents.

This blog article has been produced as part of the Ghent Urban Academy Case Study Report of the UCITYLAB Project Case Study Collection.

PC armennano via pixabay.com

The dismal statistics indicates that almost half of Amsterdam adults feel lonely. The data collected by the municipal heath service GGD states that it comes down to 300 thousand lonely people in the Dutch capital, 80 thousand of whom feel extremely lonely. The tendency has stricken the elderly population as well. To alleviate the problem, the Urban Vitality Programme, one of the Research programmes of Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS) has joined forces with Het AMSTELhuis, a residential facility for senior citizens, and launched ‘The AMSTELhuis’ Living Lab project in 2015. The project made social inclusion of elderly people, along with their activities and nutrition, a cornerstone of the Urban Vitality Programme and het Amstelhuis’ cooperative efforts.

Amsterdam: combatting loneliness and becoming an age-friendly city

Amsterdam is perceived to be one of the most inspiring and inclusive cities in Europe. Every year, it welcomes more and more expats from all over the world. Yet, the ever-rising population does not promote better socialization. Loneliness is getting recognized as a public health threat, and the city invests 1 million euros per year for tackling the issue of loneliness among its citizens. Apart from that, in 2015, Amsterdam joined the WHO Global Network for Age-friendly Cities and Communities to advance the well-being of elderly citizens through a number of programmes. With the AMSTELhuis project as a part of the Urban Vitality Programme, AUAS shares, a common ambition to organize the space for elderly citizens so that they can live an independent life that is meaningful and enriched with a variety of informal social activities.

Urban Vitality: improving senior citizens’ well-being

The activities carried out in the AMSTELhuis within the Urban Vitality research programme are majorly framed into students’ projects. The ongoing projects and research programmes are centred around three main themes: vitality, healthy nutrition and social inclusion.

Exercise Therapy students give weekly lessons in fall prevention. Prior that, a study on fall prediction was performed. The purpose of both activities is to predict falls, what will allow for a quicker action of the support staff in the future and make elderly people feel more confident in terms of their postural stability.

Healthy nutrition for the seniors is a frequent subject in research and advice. As part of the AUAS Food Lab, Nutrition & Dietetics students carry out research on the subject as well. Together with the residents’ club of the Amstelhuis, the Food Lab organises tasting events when residents can try sustainable vegetarian food. What is more, the Food Lab runs a project on marketing the Amstelhuis restaurant and making it more attractive for elderly people living in the neighbourhood.

For supporting Amstelhuis residents’ well-being, it is important they have a solid social network of co-residents, family and friends. The research done by Occupational Therapy students shows that some new residents find it difficult to connect with others when moving into the Amstelhuis. Students and researchers are trying to see what assistance is needed to help and strengthen the social network of new residents upon their arrival and further on.

The projects are being carried out with the support from the AMSTELhuis administration and supervised by the university researchers who guide and collaborate with their students in interdisciplinary teams.

Living Lab: why a success?

Efficient collaboration of the AUAS and the AMSTELhuis is ensured by several factors. First, both vision and ambition are shared and supported by the management, employees of the AMSTELhuis along with the researchers and students from AUAS. All involved parties have a common understanding that the AMSTELhuis residents, their comfort and safety are of primary concern. As confided by Ellen Budde, senior project manager of the AMSTELhuis Living Lab, a significantly important component of the programme success is related to the willingness to learn together and speak to one another respecting each other’s views, as well as to practice new behaviour expressed by all involved stakeholders, including residents themselves, their families, carers, etc. Undoubtfully, clear leadership and steering mechanisms bring more structure to the management processes. And the crowning element of the programme success is, undeniably, the applicability of the research results that improve the well-being of the AMSTELhuis residents.

Photo by Matthias Zomer from Pexels

This article has previously been published at uiin.org.

“Hub b30” is an open innovation network created to promote the collaboration, economic development and social cohesion of the territory in which the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) is located.

The B30 territory is made up of 23 municipalities in a valley that is crossed by the AP7 (B30) highway that connects the different municipalities, with an area of 485km² and has more than one million inhabitants. Its uniqueness lies in the fact that it represents the main industrial agglomeration of Catalonia and Spain with almost 30,000 companies (providing occupation for almost 400,000 workers (1) located within its area.

In this sense, approximately 50 kilometers of the highway axis called B30 structure a territory of a great demographic, economic and social relevance.

In this territory a series of very singular circumstances come together that explains why it is internationally known as an innovative region (2). Not only does it have a high intensity of companies, but also a high presence of scientific-technical institutions. It hosts one of the most advanced light laboratories in the world, the Alba Synchrotron, as well as two major public universities: the UAB and the UPC. These capacities include research centers of the CSIC and IRTA; the UAB Research Park and the ESADE Creapolis business school. The possibilities of contribution of territory B30 to a socioeconomic development of Catalonia based on the knowledge economy are extraordinary precisely because of the potential for transfer of knowledge and technology that it integrates.
 
In this context, the strategy of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona is to play a role as a node of metropolitan knowledge. The consolidation of this paper depends, among other things, on the ability of the University to functionally integrate into the territory of which it is a part. But linking the university with the rest of the actors is not an easy task in the context of ​​the metropolitan area of ​​Barcelona, ​​characteristic of its variable geographies and changing boundaries in a reality that adopts urban models in the form of a network (3).

Born from the municipal partnership ÀmbitB30, initiative Hub b30 helps UAB to be linked locally and understands the logic of the various actors in the territory that hosts it. The systematic interaction it maintains, likewise, helps to determine the role of the university in the territorial network of centers and sub-centers to which it belongs.

The Hub b30 contributes to the UAB understanding the logic of the various actors in the B30 territory, to which it is linked, and to determine the role of the university in a complex network of companies, entities, centers and subcentres.

Born in 2018, the Hub B30 is conceived as a co-creation and co-creation ecosystem inspired by the 4 propellers, where companies, research and innovation agents, local administrations and citizens of the B30 have their place. It offers contacts, experts, resources and services to public and private organizations to help them detect and solve challenges in an efficient, innovative and competitive manner. It promotes access to knowledge about markets, financing, technology and patents; to equipment and scientific-technical infrastructures; to advisors in innovation and entrepreneurship; to research staff; and specialized training among others.

One of the first activities organized to promote interaction and collaboration among local stakeholder and boost knowledge transfer to the territory are the Hubb30 Innovation Brunches. These events are opportunities for networking between researchers, companies, entities and users and articulate collaborations around specific topics that combine technologies and diverse sectors.

In each of the announcements, a practical case of collaboration between diverse agents is presented to the public and in order to demonstrate successful examples of technological, social, product, process, marketing and business model innovations.

To date, the following twelve Innovation Brunches have been celebrated:

– Sensory at the Health Service
– Intelligent mobility solutions
– Smart Waste Management: Industrial Symbiosis
– New Pàckaging solutions for fresh foods
– Digitization and Exploitation of Data in the Public Sector
– Neuromarketing for Commerce
– Product Innovation in Cosmetics
– Big Data for the Healthcare Sector
– Smart Food
– Microbial Resistance
– Circular Water
– Gamification and Heritage

On each one of the topics, the UAB Research Park has produced an associated technological surveillance report that integrates a vision of trends and innovation around the thematic, as well as a related patent analysis. The various reports produced so far are available and can be consulted at the following URL:  https://hubb30.cat/en/innovation-brunchs. The 12 Technological Surveillance Reports of the Hub b30 Innovation Brunch can also be found at https://hubb30.cat/en/innovation-brunchs.

As in these sessions, the most disruptive technologies, trends and experts in the field are exposed, they generate a lot of interest among the business, social RDI and social fabric of the B30 territory. Consequently, they contribute to generating interactions that in the medium-longer term could become consolidated cooperation in research and innovation projects. The available data (4) confirm positive feedback from the participants that make up the quadruple propeller of field B30. They indicate that 68% of participants appreciate their satisfaction and efficiency between 3 and 4 points out of a total of 4.

The logic of Innovation Brunch is “top-down”, in the sense that the proposed topics take into account the characteristics of the territory and its opportunities for research, development and innovation from a strategic viewpoint. Since 2019 however and in order to complement the action of Hubb30 with a “bottom-up” logic, differentz events were organized “on demand” by and with the agents of the territory, the Innovation Mornings. The objective of this second typology of events is to work on problems, challenges and solutions utilizing Design thinking methodologies. This line of work has been initiated this year with the following two themes:

– Mental Health and Employment
– Business training needs

In essence, the Hub30 initiative is still young, but step by step recognition is being obtained both locally and supralocal and international level. Probably one of the most interesting success indicators of a hub is the quality and volume of the actors that have adhered to it or participated in the diverse activities.

Having reached the interest of RDI agents and local administrations for Hub b30, the company/industry membership phase is now underway.

Since the Hubb30 was initially created and impulsed by the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, the UAB Research Park, Eurecat and the B30 Area Association to promote innovation, further key RDI actors in the territory also decided to adhere to the HUB (UPC, Sincrotró Alba, ESADE Creapolis ) and the key local administrations (County Council, Innovation Agency of Catalonia ACCIÓ ). In 2020 it is expected to continue growing and to gain more diversity and efficiency with the adherence of the representatives of companies and industry of the territory B30 to the HUB.

Sources:

  • Associació Àmbit B30 (2015) Estratègies per a una millora en la competitivitat de la indústria a l’àmbit B30.
  • AMB (2018) Estratègia territorial de l’Àmbit B30 per al desenvolupament econòmic inclusiu i sostenible.
  • Arcos(2019) Universidad, territorio y desarrollo local. Un análisis de la Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona.
  • PRUAB (2019) Internal Document Elaboration.

Santander was chosen to become Europe’s test bed for a sensor-based smart city. The Spanish city is embedded with more than 12,000 sensors to help the government operate as efficiently as possible.

The gathering of data collected by the sensors will lead to significant improvements in how city infrastructure is used and to a better understanding of urban issues. This unique experimental facility will be sufficiently large, open and flexible to enable its scaling-up around the world.

The University of Cantabria has coordinated the technical deployment of the infrastructure and services, being responsible for technically guiding the digital transformation.

On the one hand, the research community gets benefit from deploying such a unique infrastructure which allows true field experiments while, on the other hand, different applications serving citizens’ needs will be deployed – typical applications and services for a smart city, including experimental advanced research on IoT (Internet of Things) technologies and realistic assessment of users’ acceptability tests.

Since 2010, 12,500 sensors have been measuring the amount of trash in containers, the number of parking spaces available, and the size of crowds on the sidewalks. Besides, sensors were also installed in vehicles, such as police cars and taxicabs, measuring air pollution levels and traffic conditions.

The data from these sensors flows to banks of computers that analyse the real-time information and give city officials the big picture, allowing them to adjust the amount of energy they use, the number of trash pickups needed in a given week or the amount of water to sprinkle on the lawns of city parks.

To attract the widest interest and demonstrate the usefulness of the SmartSantander platform, a key aspect is the inclusion of a wide set of applications. Application areas have been selected based on their high potential impact on the citizens as well as to exhibit the diversity, dynamics and scale that are essential in advanced protocol solutions and will be able to be evaluated through the platform. Thus, the platform will be attractive for all the stakeholders, e.g. industries, communities of users, etc. that are willing to use the experimental facility for deploying and assessing new services and applications, and Internet researchers to validate their cutting-edge technologies, including protocols, algorithms, radio interfaces, etc.

A scalable, heterogeneous and trustable large-scale real-world experimental facility

The main goals of the SmartSantander are to be a test bed for a sensor-based smart city, to lead to a better understanding of urban issues, to fuel the use of the Experimentation Facility among the scientific community, end users and service providers in order to reduce the technical and societal barriers that prevent the IoT concept to become an everyday reality, to develop new applications by users of various types, to validate approaches to the architectural model of the IOT, to evaluate social acceptance of IoT technologies and services and to develop a data market place, according to the Digital Single Market principles.

Some of the activities performed are environmental monitoring, outdoor parking management and driver guidance, parks and gardens precision irrigation, augmented reality, participatory sensing and joint R&D (university & industry cooperation). The ultimate impact is to improve the city efficiency using the real data driven from the sensors.

Awards and recognition

Awards received by the initiative include:

  • Computerworld & Cio Iberoamericano 2012
  • ENERTIC 2015
  • Future Internet Award
  • Gobierno Abierto
  • Google Ciudad Digital
  • Impuls@ TIC
  • Innovación +Sostenibilidad+Red
  • Innovation Hub 2017: Premio a la Innovación Transformadora
  • Premio “Ciudad de la Ciencia y la Innovación”
  • Premio Ciudadanos 2015
  • RFID & Wireless IoT tomorrow’ 2017: Modelo innovador en la aplicación de la tecnología a los servicios urbanos
  • Smart Cities 2013

Partners

University of Cantabria
Municipality of Santander

The collaborative efforts of the scientific world and the society have taken place in various areas of human life. The collaboration has proven to be more sustainable in case it happens at the interface of different scientific fields and including different stakeholders. The Utrecht Co-challenge course recognizes the importance of all-inclusiveness, and offers an opportune ground for students, governmental bodies and the corporate world to tackle the issues and see to the demands of today’s society. Launched in 2014 by Prof. dr. Harold van Rijen and ing. Michele Gerbrands, the Utrecht Co-challenge is an elective course open for talented youth of the University of Utrecht, HU University of Applied Sciences. It allows the participants to engage in fast-paced, information-rich, and collaborative forms of learning and application of skills to deliver solutions for the client organization.

What’s in the plan?

The goal of the course is to personally and professionally prepare participants for the world of work, with its emphasis on the development of relevant skills, including pitching, networking, intercultural communication, creativity, giving and receiving feedback, and business modelling. With this goal in mind, the organisation team, speakers and coaches of the program create a safe and inspiring learning environment where the participants learn to work in an interdisciplinary team and solve a real-world problem in co-creation with professionals from the educational and corporate world. More to that, the learners also get a chance to extend their professional network and brand themselves.

Though the programme is officially launched at the University Medical Center Utrecht (UMCU), to achieve an interdisciplinary approach to team building and knowledge generation, it is also open for students of all backgrounds from Utrecht University and HU University of Applied Sciences. The problems that students need to solve are not in the biomedical domain, but an opportunity for them to prepare themselves to the world of work personally and professionally. Such inclusion lets the participants work with their peers who come from various backgrounds.

What’s the Co-challenge about?

On average, 20-25 students attend the Co-challenge course every year, working in groups of five. The program is run in two weeks that are filled with a wide range of activities.

In the first week, the Co-challenge starts with a plenary workshop where participants get acquainted with their peers and form teams. After a series of inspirational sessions and workshops the teams analyse the identified problem and prepare an interview with the client. During the analysis process, students are supported by mentors, e.g. in case of the mental pressure problem, a student-psychologist shares his knowledge on the issue, a researcher shares the latest insights from an academic perspective, and an entrepreneur tells more on how to cope with mental pressure. The workshops prepare students to practice certain skills to develop a concept such as techniques to investigate the problem and create several creative solutions. In the mid-week, the teams pitch their concept at a networking event and receive feedback. The first week is wrapped up with student teams peer-reviewing each other.

The agenda of the second week is filled with workshops on intercultural communication and business modelling. The teams finalise shaping their working concept and create a team/individual elevator pitch that is video-recorded for the client. The activity is supervised by a coach who guides teams in preparing and delivering their pitch. Then they present the final concept to the client and a jury. The jury includes companies’ CEOs, municipality representatives, students who have started their own business, professors, and the clients of the projects. In the end, the teams draw up an advisory report for the client, and he can choose one or multiple projects for his use.

A new challenge is on the horizon?

Yes, it is! The new challenge of 2019 is about to identify interventions to prevent the impact of mental pressures experienced by the students who study in Utrecht as the city is one of the major student hubs in the Netherlands. Nationally, several studies about experienced performance pressure and experienced stress among students have been published and revealed unfavourable results that call to action. Thus, the goal of the Co-challenge 2019 is to understand and relieve some of the pressure before it leads to mental and physical problems. Provisionally, the stress levels can be tuned down by creating awareness, shaping a safe study environment, educating teachers and counsellors, and improving the types of targeted outreach. Hopefully, the Co-challenge 2019 will show more ways on how to tackle the problem.

Master Program in Management, Policy Analysis and Entrepreneurship in Health & Life Sciences (further MPA) is a two-year interdisciplinary program taught at the VU University, Amsterdam. Like many other Master programs, it requires students to undertake internships, and submit a Master thesis upon the program completion. MPA seeks to instil multi perspective thinking into a new generation of researchers, policy makers and entrepreneurs who are willing to pursue their careers in the field of health and life sciences. The programme hosts around 110 students every year, and the courses are taught in English.

To provide context, the MPA is taught at the Athena Institute, Faculty of Science, VU University Amsterdam,  Athena’s research focuses on the interface between science and technology (in the field of health and life sciences) and society. Athena’s mission is to realise excellence in transdisciplinary research on innovation and communication in the health and life sciences, with a specific focus on processes of social inclusion and diversity. The reason behind the development of MPA is in the complexity of societal problems that also require complex solutions with an application of rigorous scientific principles. Such solutions have to be based on the integrated knowledge from numerous scientific disciplines and cooperation between a wide variety of stakeholders in society – starting from the government, industry and societal organizations to ultimate consumers.

The Master programme comprises the compulsory courses, electives (linked to specialization), science courses, and two internships. In total, students are expected to complete 120 ECTS within 2 years. Students can choose among the five specializations: Health & Life Sciences-based Management and Entrepreneurship; Health & Life Sciences-based Policy; Health & Life Sciences-based Policy; International Public Health; and Community-based Health Technologies. The purpose of the two internships is to get students exposed to work experiences in multi-stakeholder organisations and they learn to apply the core elements of the programme in a real-world setting.

Quality employment after graduation

The programme is successful in broadening the outlook of students and facilitating their development into multi-stakeholder problem-solvers in order to address complex societal issues. After the programme students have the knowledge, attitudes and skills to analyse complex societal issues, formulate and implement strategies to deal with them and to effectively cooperate and communicate both with societal actors and with researchers from different disciplines. Another important element for success is the structure of the MPA program that combines classroom learning with two practical experiences via internships that allow plenty of opportunities for the students for growth, and integration into the professional network. In addition, the enabling nature of the local policies, fostering collaborative innovation, and consideration of the innovation in health sciences as a priority, coupled with the institutional culture that fosters interdisciplinary research can be considered as two major supporting mechanisms for the successful implementation of the programme.

The programme thus has a strong impact on the employability of its students, which also contributes to the fostering of innovation in the regional health sector. According to the MPA programme representatives, the 95% of the students find employment within the first year of graduation. The professional field strongly appreciates with the quality of MPA students and graduates. Students find their way to the job market, and of the last two cohorts of students (n=189) only six alumni do not have a formal position.

Over the years MPA established itself as a robust and mature programme. It has a sustainable number of students, it fulfils the expectations and learning requirements, the teaching team is well established, highly motivated and the prospect for graduates is very promising.

This blog article is written with reference to the MPA Masters good practice case study report prepared as part of the Erasmus+ University City Action Lab (UCITYLAB) Project.

The Exchange at Knowledge Market was an interdisciplinary living lab and a research partnership between and RMIT University in Melbourne and Lendlease, an international property and infrastructure group. For a period of 18 months, a team of designers, social scientists and students were embedded at Victoria Harbour in the Docklands, a major urban regeneration project at the edge of Melbourne’s central district, leading a series of design studios, research projects and public engagement activities. The area presented specific challenges: Melbourne’s Docklands had long suffered a poor reputation as a place to visit, especially in the evenings and on the weekends, when it was perceived as lacking liveliness and character. Lendlease had been running the Knowledge Market as a dedicated learning hub for Melbourne’s growing knowledge sector, connecting the precinct’s residents, workers and visitors with ideas and experiences.

Activating Victoria Harbour

The Exchange at Knowledge Market project (henceforth: The Exchange) began in 2017 with the goal to activate Victoria Harbour. Industry partner Lendlease wanted to draw people to the area, give them a reason to visit and explore: they wanted to enliven the precinct in ways that extended beyond the existing retail and restaurant outlets. Victoria Harbour is furthermore characterised by its distinctive built form which houses corporate headquarters and high-rise apartment complexes. These forms of contemporary architecture are defined by the creation of complete interior environments that provide a range of amenities within the building itself. This sets up a clearly defined barrier between the activities of the occupants within the buildings and their engagement with the surrounding street life.

The team from RMIT University saw a valuable opportunity to offer a unique, real-world learning experience for their students. It also wanted to bring design and ethnographic research about this area of Melbourne directly into design studio teaching that responded to the Victoria Harbour precinct. Located in an 80m2 shopfront facing a local park, The Exchange was envisioned as an attempt to draw people to Victoria Harbour by creating more activity at different times of day and night. It took a unique approach to activating the urban area, combining design ethnographic research with talks, public events, and design studios focusing on designing urban futures that were based in the everyday lived experiences of people occupying the area.

Design Ethnographic Research Informing Living Lab Activities

A series of linked design ethnographicresearchprojects focused on the view and aspirations of the local community, with particular attention to how they made use of and understood their relationship with its buildings and places. In this way, the team were able to consider propositions for intervention or change that worked with what people were already doing or what they valued, rather than trying to impose completely new ways of behaving or unfamiliar understandings of the city. Ethnographic research then informed the design of all activities delivered at The Exchange, which were thus based in the concrete lived experiences of people in Victoria Harbour.

The activities included a full year of RMIT student design studios that investigated and designed for urban futures, using Victoria Harbour as a living lab for their work: this meant taking the learning and teaching process outside of the University lecture halls.  Public workshops, forums and other events engaged directly with the community, and that brought a range of experts to speak on some of the challenges facing cities today. Through the public lecture series, prominent design practitioners shared their insights with an audience made up of students, residents and professional practitioners, while the exhibition program, associated with various Melbourne festivals, attracted diverse crowds to The Exchange and brought their unique outlook to ideas concerning the development of the city.

Collaborating across Sectors and Disciplinary Boundaries

As it developed, The Exchange took shape as an adaptable venue that could cater for a multitude of events: the program of activities clearly demonstrated what is possible when the activation of an urban area grows from the specific conditions of a place without overly strict constraints. To allow for an organic, bottom-up development and growth of the living lab, the project team developed an embedded and site-specific model, where the research, teaching, and design studios were taken outside of academia and students and researches were able to immerse themselves in the precinct and understand it as “insiders”. The project also took an inherently interdisciplinary approach, relying on close collaboration amongst project leaders with disciplinary strengths in design, creative practice and social science, which led to a creative and innovation-oriented working culture. The Exchange also differed from more conventional ways of conducting ‘commissioned’ research, which often includes outcomes determined from the beginning of a contractual relationship. Because the project’s suite of outcomes were not all entirely predictable, the university and industry partners had to rely on the development of trust and a strong spirit of collaboration.

The concluding event at the Exchange took place in June 2019, with the launch of the project’s book The Exchange at Knowledge Market: An Urban Living Lab (Ross McLeod, Shanti Sumartojo, Charles Anderson, Natasha Sutila, Sean Hogan, 2019) and short film The Exchange at Knowledge Market (Sirap Motion Lab) in June 2019. These outputs explain the project’s living lab model for others to adopt and take forward.

This blog article is written with reference to a good practice case study report prepared as part of the Erasmus+ University City Action Lab (UCITYLAB) Project and with reference to the project’s recently published book The Exchange at Konwledge Market: An Urban Living Lab (Ross McLeod, Shanti Sumartojo, Charles Anderson, Natasha Sutila, Sean Hogan, 2019).

Featured image by: Tobias Titz