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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’
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.
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 received by the initiative include:
Computerworld & Cio Iberoamericano 2012
Future Internet Award
Google Ciudad Digital
Innovation Hub 2017: Premio a la Innovación
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
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?
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
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
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.
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.
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?
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
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
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.
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.
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)
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.
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).
La Marina Living Lab is an urban laboratory, which seeks to engage citizens in the transformation of “La Marina de Valencia”: the historic harbour of the city of Valencia. The Lab is based on a user-oriented process, in which public space is adjusted to the preferences of those who work, study and play in La Marina. Furthermore, it follows a multi-stakeholder approach, counting on the support of research organisations, public administrations, civic associations as well as the private sector.
La Marina is managed
by Consorcio València 2007 (CV07) – a
public institution, formed as an alliance between the Government of Spain, the
Regional Government of Valencia and Valencia City Council.
La Marina Living Lab does not have its own physical
building or laboratory. It is rather an initiative of co-creation and co-design
in which CV07 commits to letting the entire urban space of Valencia´s harbour
be used as a testbed for trying out new innovative projects. La Marina Living Lab is a vast and ambitious
project fuelled by the conviction that bringing all relevant stakeholders on
board is the only way public spaces can be designed in a way that truly work
example of university-city collaboration
La Marina was
born in collaboration with Western Sydney University (WSU), which had an
important role in the formulation of the its theoretical backbone.
University of Valencia also helped in the development of the sustainability
educational institutions have also collaborated with La Marina. Rice School
of Architecture developed a workshop in which 9 students designed solutions
to activate old buildings from the south area of La Marina. Escuela de
Empresarios launched “Marina Challenge” to develop a strategy for La Marina
focused on 3 areas: nautical; leisure, culture and tourism; innovation,
technology and entrepreneurship. The faculty of biological sciences of
Valencia University also established a project in which students developed
ideas to improve the accessibility and use of the space. Polytechnic of
Valencia hosted a workshop in which La Marina has been involved, discussing
with 3 foreign students the possible and sustainable use for the Base Alinghi
de la America’s Cup. This University has also contributed to the ideas’
exchange between La Marina and universities from Vietnam.
Marina has recently realized collaborations with the Scientific Park of the
University of Valencia and the Faculty of Geography and History of
has a new vision for the future whereby both tradition and inventiveness drive
the transformation of the economy
The main goals
of the Living Lab can be described as converting La Marina into the city’s
engine for economic development through innovation, promote economic activation
of the space, creating a sustainable, inclusive and dynamic public space, and foster
performed include events, brainstorming activities, training sessions, leisure
activities, workshops and projects, often with the collaboration of
universities from the city and beyond.
attempts to respond to various challenges
First of all,
at the urban level, La Marina aspires to reactivate economically an abandoned
public space with a big potential for social use. It is recognized that such
impact will not be limited to La Marina itself but will be expanded to the
seaside area and its adjacent neighbourhoods, which were largely overlooked in
Marina aspires to create a “new story” and re-brand a “new and modern Valencia”
as a differentiation to the previous vision defined by short-sighted
construction projects, economic overspend and international events. So, this
new vision will be oriented towards people, innovation and creativity.
Marina seeks non-speculative development. Instead of the model dominated by
large-scale investment of capital and infrastructure, the new model proposed is
based on values – inclusivity, open public space, and activities or initiatives
for all citizens. Hence, the project aims to strengthen the connection between neighbourhood
associations, and the cultural and artistic vibe, as well as other social
entities, in a participative and open way.
Consorcio València 2007
Sydney University (WSU)
Municipality of Valencia
This blog article is written with reference to the La Marina Living Lab Good Practice Case Study Report prepared as part of the Erasmus+ University City Action Lab (UCITYLAB) Project.
The potential of Living Labs as research tools have been of interest for the UAB since 2014 when the university actively joined the European Network of Living Labs (ENoLL) and got further exposure to the wide variety of application and experiences initiated on a European and International level. This exposure fortified the initial faith that living labs could provide the adequate platforms for setting up local ecosystems of innovation around thematic axes and for implementing the strategic vision of the university with respect to its territorial mission and Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) policies. The case of the Library Living Lab is a demonstrative example of how collaboration among different societal agents can produce initiatives rich in innovation and potential social impact.
In trying to describe what the Library Living Lab really is, it can be described essentially as a space of experiences. It is a place where one can explore how technology transforms the way we enjoy and experience culture and cultural content in general. This question is addressed within the frame of open social innovation, where the Public Library provides the context of a meeting point for diverse users with different perspectives. In this sense, the Library Living Lab sought to transform a library space into a place in which all the stakeholders, and most-importantly the end-users, the Library users, are invited and encouraged to participate in the definition and design cycle of new services and of an innovative experience. The outcome is a laboratory where it is possible to co-design prototypes of new tools and services, but also a social innovation laboratory where active research and observation is carried out on the dynamics and processes that lead to such innovation to take place. In the specific case of the Library Living Lab, there are two fundamental pillars, namely: i) The exploration of technology as a disruptive factor that makes possible new experiences and adds transformative value to existing services. ii) An on-going research on the role of public space in contemporary society, as a stage for open innovation where all citizens are potential actors.
model of inter-institutional collaboration with all relevant stakeholders
The launch of the Library Living Lab has involved the definition of its own dynamics around a permanent working group, in which several mechanisms of inter-institutional collaboration have been deployed. The aim of the working group was the alignment of all these various objectives for the definition of the master lines of work. The group was gathered during three years in bimonthly meetings and its first task, and perhaps the most important one, was the definition of a common language between all institutions, by learning to talk between all members, fixing terminology and procedures, and defining a new field of common knowledge. The Permanent Working Group (Figure 1) has been the engine of the specific definition of the project, and it brought together representatives of the five participating institutions, each one with different roles, plans of action and objectives and interests in participating:
City of Sant Cugat del Vallès: The City of Sant Cugat del Vallès won a new
innovative space for its residents, a meeting place and a space where cultural
projects with the participation of all the social segments of the city can
occur. It allows the city government to experiment and advance on the design of
new models of governance with a special focus on citizen participation.
Provincial Council of Barcelona (Manager of the Network of Libraries): The LLL endows the Library Network of
Provincial Council of Barcelona with a testbed to locate and identify the challenges that
arise on a day-to-day basis, to explore fitted solutions, to test prototype proposals
and to propose answers and solutions, all by-with-and-for the users. The
scalability of the solutions produced is guaranteed by transferring the validated
ones obtained in the LLL to the rest of the libraries of the network.
Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB):
The LLL serves as a physical extension of the university to its adjacent territory. The Universitat
Autònoma de Barcelona implements through the LLL
its own policy of RRI in the territory, and at the same time provides its
scientific community with a space to work with citizen science.
Computer Vision Center (CVC-UAB): (Research Center) The Computer Vision Centre gets a
place of experimentation and validation of technologies with a high added
value, and an implementation space for rapid technology transfer to society
though fast prototyping.
Association of Neighbours of Volpelleres: Are the final recipients of
services and the instigators of the initiative. The Association achieves a
strong revitalization and dynamization of the neighbourhood, a collection of
innovative activities, and a place to enjoy culture through the latest
The transformative value of the Living Lab within a public library
The existence of the Living Lab enriches the day-to-day activity of the
library. The continued presence of people with various profiles -scientists,
artists, entrepreneurs, … all of them also “new” library users-
provide novel entry points of knowledge and potential opportunities for
multidisciplinary interchange among all participants, starting by the library
users and finishing with the professionals who provide the services. On the
other hand, there is a direct impact in terms of inclusion: the new range of
experiences broadens the scope of the library users, even by attracting people
who otherwise would not visit the library, and by increasing the possibility of
user interaction and active participation in joint projects with diverse and
At an institutional level, the articulation of a genuine innovation
ecosystem helps to effectively advocate the role of public spaces (such as a
Public Library) as an open meeting place for all societal stakeholders. This
fosters the attraction of small and larger companies to the public and cultural
sphere and promotes their participation in public-led initiatives. On another
level, the local library expands its area of action and activity and this
allows multiple projects of not only local but also regional and international
reach to occur within its premises. The library is thus transformed into a
place where many things can happen, not as a result of abstract improvisation
but because of a collaborative work and open and flexible models of
One example of how the LLL experience has served as inspiration, and a
catalyst at the same time, for new initiatives to emerge is the recent initiative
promoted by the UAB named “ISC2:
BiblioLab of social innovation and citizen participation”. In this case, the
UAB, the CVC-UAB and three public libraries from towns within the campus’ vicinity
(Vapor Badia in Sabadell, the Cerdanyola Main Library and the Miquel Batllori
Library in Sant Cugat) have come together to launch this project, with the
objective of adapting public libraries to the cultural and social changes
brought about digital social innovation, thus favouring the creation of
collaborative and participative environments open to everyone (Labs ISC2). The project is part of the
Barcelona Provincial Council’s initiative BiblioLabs, which seeks to promote
the role of libraries as drivers of social transformations. The pilot programme
will be applied with a first initiative involving secondary school students and
how to incorporate concepts of responsible research and innovation (RRI) into
their research projects, a subject around which many transformation processes
can be conducted through the library labs. Later, other initiatives such as
encouraging a vocation of science and digital skills in young people will also
be offered with the aim of transforming libraries into spaces which foster
learning, science, innovation and technology.
The Library Living Lab implementation approach has also permitted us to identify
and highlight some of the most relevant near-future challenges arising in the
context such innovation endeavours. These challenges serve as a starting point
for a reflexion on the “Library of the Future” and they have been selected to
be part of the white book for the main directives on Future Public Libraries of
the Barcelona Provincial Council:
The Library of Living Lab was a result of citizen initiative. It will be
important to implement social adequate monitoring tools to identify such kind
of initiatives, and to accompany them with dynamic policy instruments. The
current processes of public administrations are not adapted to the flexibility
needed and it is necessary to develop new methodologies of inter-disciplinary and
inter-institutional character, with an obligatory citizen participation and
this needs to be revised / updated.
In the medium term, the design of public spaces should be tackled as
community projects: social actors must be able to participate in the design
process in order to make it their own. Participation in the process of defining
spaces not only guarantees a technical optimization based on a good design, but
also fundamentally integrates a project space within the community.
New paradigms of collaboration among all actors of society necessarily
imply the need for specific models of economic sustainability. Novel
instruments for co-financing /patronage / sponsorship in the quadruple helix
scheme must be investigated to enable quick response at the budgetary action
level for innovation projects.
Citizen participation in innovation processes opens up many questions
related to the management of intellectual property rights and the potential exploitation
of emerging innovations. These issues can only be solved, given its high
complexities and peculiarities, on a case-to-case base. We must therefore
identify monitoring and protection mechanisms of the innovation outcomes, which
must play a paramount role in the innovation processes.
In short, one of the key challenges for innovation spaces such as the Library Living Lab is to facilitate an efficient way for citizens to have a direct contribution in the processes of defining and implementing new services and activities. This added value can only be achieved through the participation of all stakeholders, and through the meticulous definition of processes and effective policy-making. In the upcoming future technology will undeniably play a very strong role as an enabling and disruptive factor, so it lays upon society -and respective mechanisms of individual and inter-institutional collaboration- to face successfully the most significant societal challenges that will be emerging in the following years. Only in this way, the society will be able to obtain a positive transformative socio-economic impact from the innovative contributions arising from collaborative innovation processes such as the ones proposed by the Library Living Lab and the emerging technological paradigm.
This blog article is written with reference to the Library Living Lab Good Practice Case Study Report prepared as part of the Erasmus+ University City Action Lab (UCITYLAB) Project.
In the World Happiness Report 2019, Finland has topped
the ranking as the happiest country in the world for the second time in a row. Among
various reasons presented in the report, government clearly holds the key to their citizens’ wellbeing. The
city of Turku recognizes its responsibility, and, in its current city
strategy, Turku 2029,
identifies sustainable promotion of its residents’ wellbeing and
competitiveness as its primary goal. To achieve the goal, a joint effort of
academia representatives and city officials in supporting the Turku Urban Research Program stands
out as an effective mechanism to back up the city strategy. The Research
Program positions itself as a knowledge brokerage partnership seeking to
facilitate research-based policy advice.
What’s it all about?
Turku Urban Research Program is a flexible network of city officials and
universities, i.e. University
of Turku and Åbo Akademi University,
guided by a steering committee and managed by a jointly-appointed research
director (a ‘knowledge broker’). The Research Program was launched to tackle
urban challenges, make good use of emerging opportunities as well as support
the City of Turku in implementing but also constantly critically reviewing its
strategy. The City of Turku believes that the city’s growth should be based on
an ecologically, socially and economically sustainable foundation.
The Research Program supports the City’s
developmental attempts in the following areas:
(conditions and factors of economic success, increasing attractiveness,
collaboration with other cities and institutions, etc.);
& wellbeing (living conditions, social inclusion, integration of
development (land use & planning, housing, transport, climate change,
governance (public services, local democracy enhancement, etc.).
in all, research co-operation supports knowledge-based management of the
municipality’s development initiatives in all strategic fields.
What is actually being done?
The Research Programme provides grants to
research projects that meet both the city’s and the universities’ needs.
Projects are either initiated through funding competitions or assigned directly.
In the open funding competitions, applicants
have to pass two rounds. During the first round, their projects are reviewed by
a panel of representatives from the universities, the city administration and
other potential funders. The projects are assessed against scientific merit, applicability,
originality of their contributions, etc. In the second round, the applicants
are expected to present their final research plan having incorporated the
feedback received from the reviewers. For each winning project, the City of
Turku nominates a steering group that gets supported by the research director with
fostering information exchange.
In 2018, the programme distributed €600.000
research funding through a funding competition. The topics of the granted
projects were housing choices, intergenerational social exclusion, transnational
networks of Turku as a university town (1640–1828), temporary uses supporting
innovation in science park setting, novel urban services enabled by 5G
networks, and urban climate policy.
In case of a direct assignment, the
knowledge broker helps practitioners to define a reasonable assignment and
negotiate the details with the researchers. When an individual/team has an
initiative to share, applicants are welcome to approach the research director
with their proposal that gets evaluated on its fit for the needs of the city.
In addition, the Research Program holds annual
competitions with 10 grants for Master theses in Urban Research, available for students
studying at the University of Turku and Åbo Akademi University.
What are the interim results?
The Research Program has been in place
since 2009, and it has been renewed for the third cycle (2019-2023). The impact,
generated by the Research Program, primarily concerns research and policy
advice. By 2019, more than 100 research projects – all done in co-operation
with the municipality – have been funded or co-funded by the Research Program. City
administration applies the research results to improve their decision-making
and strengthen the impact of their development initiatives. The Research
Program has considerably strengthened co-operation between the city
administration and universities.
The Research Program has had an effect on education as well. It has served as a trigger to create Urban Studies Minor (seminars and courses of 25-35 ECTS) offered to students at the University of Turku and Åbo Akademi University. The seminars and courses are expected to stimulate students to specialize in urban research within their majors.
This blog article is written with reference to the Turku Urban Research Good Practice Case Study Report prepared as part of the Erasmus+ University City Action Lab (UCITYLAB) Project.