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.
“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
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.
Porto has been witnessing a remarkable shift in its business profile:
its innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem has been able to create
innovative companies with high employability rates. Porto can now be considered
an aggregator of innovation and entrepreneurship. In this ecosystem,
collaborative initiatives become even more important, especially when they
gather the elements of the quadruple helix.
Therefore, the emergence of the Porto Living Lab was a natural outcome of this new context we are living in and a result of a long-term partnership between the Academia and the Municipality.
In October 2012, the University of Porto kicked-off the Future Cities project (a European-funded project) to expand the Center of Competence for Future Cities of the University of Porto. The goals were to unlock the full potential of interdisciplinary research in urban technologies, and to strength knowledge transfer activities in close cooperation with local and global industrial partners. Hence, the Center of Competence for Future Cities serves as an agile collaboration platform for a critical mass of scientists and engineers based at various schools of the University of Porto.
In 2013 Porto Digital, the Municipality of Porto and the University of
Porto joined efforts towards the creation of the Porto Living Lab. Porto
Digital is a private non-profit association, aiming at promoting ICT projects
within the context of the city of Porto and its metropolitan area.
Porto Living lab strongly
contributed to turning the city of Porto into a smart city and to raising its
national and international awareness in the smart cities’ domains
This living lab has allowed urban-scale experimentation and testing by
the R&D community, has enabled a free Wi-Fi service to be provided to the
public bus users in the city of Porto, engaged with end-users, and has empowered
a local start-up company to scale-up to global markets: Veniam.
Porto Living Lab aims to turn the city of Porto into a lab for urban
sciences and technologies for smarter cities, by providing different test beds
with a wide range of sensors and communication infrastructures. It, indeed,
comprises a network of wireless sensing and communication nodes that is
interoperable with the city’s optical fiber and Wi-Fi networks.
The living lab is creating the conditions for present and future
research and development using advanced technologies for data collection
through mobile platforms, wireless communication and large-scale information
It enables the development of research in areas such as sustainability,
mobility, urban planning and information and communication technology.
Having city-scale digital communication infrastructures, knowledge and
technologies on advanced sensing and communication technologies and political
will available, Porto Living Lab performs multidisciplinary research and
development, deployment of advanced sensing and communication technologies,
technology and proof-of-concept testing and demonstration at a city-scale,
technology transfer from academia to business, new services exploitation and
Porto Living Lab was instrumental in placing,
not only the University of Porto, but also the city of Porto on the map of
smart cities in Europe and worldwide. The project has proven the viability of a
city-scale mesh network of connected vehicles that become part of the city
infrastructure to expand wireless coverage for a wide range of smart city
applications. In addition, Porto Living Lab led to the creation and growth of a
university spin-off company, which is successfully translating the results of
the basic and applied research into products, services, qualified jobs and
This blog article is written with reference to the Porto Living Lab Good Practice Case Study Report prepared as part of the Erasmus+ University City Action Lab (UCITYLAB) Project.
In this blog article, Konstantinos Kourkoutas, Coordinator of the CORE Smart and Sustainable Cities of the UAB and Angela Serrano, Head of the Unit of Strategic Development at UAB discuss how the critical mass of research and innovation institutions at the Autonomous University of Barcelona facilitated the emergence of a number of Strategic Research Networks (COREs), including Smart and Sustainable Cities. The research on the Smart and Sustainable Cities aims to integrate the knowledge generated by disciplines involved in traditional spatial research and planning with new disruptive technologies and methodologies.
The Strategic Research Networks / CORES (Comunitat Adreçada a Repte Estratègic, in Catalan) are interdisciplinary research communities, with a flexible organization that bring together all the research groups of the different members of the UAB Sphere, in line with the objectives of the challenges outlined in the priority societal challenges of Horizon 2020, the RISCAT, and the local strategic development goals.
The CORE mission is to promote the R & D
& I capabilities of the UAB and its Sphere through the support of the
coordinated development of research and transfer strategies, with the ultimate
goal of increasing the competitiveness of the member groups, both individually
and collectively. Their
aim is to generate and promote networking, to share resources and to coordinate
actions required to effectively boost projects that may advance knowledge in
the field and promote transfer of result into society and industry. Each CORE
has a Strategic Plan and a community manager.
A Snapshot into the development of Catalonia Regional Innovation Ecosystem
The current challenge for European
public universities is to ensure that research excellence translates into an
economic, social and cultural growth for the region and that the public
research can be accountable not only to the wide scientific world but also to
the society and the respective challenges being faced.
The Regional Smart Specialization Strategies set up in
2010 by the European Commission identify priorities in which each region
believe it has potential to grow and were set up by the interaction of the
quadruple helix (government, industry, academia and society). Universities are key
actors in defining and implementing such strategies, thus they had to make an effort to draft strategic plans that enable
alignment with these policies. By taking part to the Regional
Specialization Strategy (RIS3CAT in Catalonia), the Catalan universities have
developed, for the first time, a strategic vision of the region and its key
sectors and met new partners and stakeholders in order to be able to participate
in the regional strategy programs.
The strength of the UAB proposal comes, not only from its own
capabilities, but from the singularity of the UAB Research Hub – the UAB
Sphere- in terms of critical mass. The
UAB Sphere is an ecosystem of knowledge that aggregates research and innovation
institutions contribute to socio-economic
development of the territory. Aggregation
in terms of increase of critical mass, sharing of resources, synergies, optimizing investments,
and improving the sustainability of
the system, results in an improved
competitiveness of the territory. This definition has
played an important role in the
development project “Excellence Campus UAB.”
The award of the Campus of International Excellence (CIE) to the UAB by
the Spanish Ministry of Science back in 2009, set out
the ground for the development of the current RIS3. The UAB-CIE jointly focused
on the creation of a regional plan to consolidate the centers on the UAB campus
with the technology parks, companies and local municipalities. They aimed to create
a vibrant regional hub of knowledge and innovation with a special emphasis on
specific areas of specialization that could act as motors for local socio-economic
development. The project implied, for the first time strengthening the
collaboration among all the research and innovation stakeholders of the campus
and the territory, and it represented a major shift
in the vision of the university as an integrating and fundamental part of any
regional strategy. This undoubtedly made it easier for the UAB to fit its
future activities into the Regional Strategy for Intelligent Specialization of
Catalonia 2014-2020 (RISCAT) since it coincided with actions that were driven
by the spirit of integrating strategies and aggregating the capacities that had
emerged from the UAB-CEI project.
It was already demonstrated that the
set of institutions that make up the Sphere UAB-CEI had the necessary
capabilities, both human and material, to develop successful projects in
complex and strategic areas. Also, under
the RISCAT instrument called Communities, the creation of thematic partnerships
was proposed in order to meet the regional socio-economic demands and
challenges in specific sectors. For the UAB in order to respond to
these challenges and effectively articulate its own capacities, the Strategic
Research Communities(CORE) were launched starting in
2013. The CORE networks were established based on a strategic challenge
identified at international, European and territorial level and in which the
UAB-CEI had a sufficient critical mass of research groups that covered the
entire chain of value of each area. In this sense, the UAB has defined four
COREs so far: Smart & Sustainable Cities, Cultural Heritage, Mental Health
and Education & Occupability that act in the quadruple helix frame of
territorial organization: academic field, productive sector, government sector
and civil society.
Smart and Sustainable Cities within the CORE
One of the four COREs created is the one on Smart and
Sustainable Cities. The territorial dimension of the City thematic allows for a
strong interaction between groups of the network and regional stakeholders and the
generation of knowledge and new initiatives / mechanisms that can contribute to
the sustainable development of cities in the surrounding territory. In
scientific terms, the aim was to integrate the knowledge generated by disciplines
involved in traditional spatial research and planning with new disruptive
technologies and methodologies that have emerged or are emerging and are
changing both the organizational as well as physical aspect of our cities. During
the three years in function now, natural sub-thematic groups were formed around
topics, such as circular economy and city metabolism, digital governance and
technological sovereignty, new models of productions and consumption in the
city, connected vehicles and advanced mobility, spatial data and decision
making models, Societal Perception of
Technology among others, creating over time a proper structure and
self-organization. Another important part of the CORE activity was the
articulation and interaction with the local quadriple-helix stakeholders, and
the initiation of new projects, such as the UAB OPEN LABS project, which will
be described in a subsequent article.
The COREs initiative has provoked the curiosity and
interest of many Spanish and European universities that have come contacted us
over the years to know more on how they can replicate the model. Thus, we think
it is worthwhile to be included and mentioned within the UCITY project, so more
people get inspired and start organizing and collaborating around strategic
challenges in their territories.