UCITYLAB Project

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Mental Health and Employment
– Business training needs

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

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

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

Sources:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Awards and recognition

Awards received by the initiative include:

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

Partners

University of Cantabria
Municipality of Santander

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

What’s in the plan?

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

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

What’s the Co-challenge about?

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

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

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

A new challenge is on the horizon?

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

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

Activating Victoria Harbour

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

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

Design Ethnographic Research Informing Living Lab Activities

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

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

Collaborating across Sectors and Disciplinary Boundaries

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

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

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

Featured image by: Tobias Titz

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 for everybody.

A huge 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.

The Polytechnic University of Valencia also helped in the development of the sustainability strategy.

Several other 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.

Besides, La Marina has recently realized collaborations with the Scientific Park of the University of Valencia and the Faculty of Geography and History of Valencia University.

La Marina 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 citizen appropriation.

The activities performed include events, brainstorming activities, training sessions, leisure activities, workshops and projects, often with the collaboration of universities from the city and beyond.

The project 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 past decades.

Secondly, La 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.

Thirdly, La 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. 

Partners

Consorcio València 2007

Western 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.

Context

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.

Project Goals 

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 processing.

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 end-user engagement.

Impacts

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 export opportunities.

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. 

As much as the cities are considered to be the engines of European economy with extensive job opportunities, and the educated population they attract, they are also places where the social and environmental challenges are concentrated, including mobility, sustainable land and energy use, inclusion of migrants, digital transformation and poverty.  

Without doubt, universities hold great potential to act as key actors in fostering dialogue among regional stakeholders to initiate and sustain joint actions towards creation of smart and sustainable cities. In that, the 2017 renewed Agenda on Higher Education has made clear references to the responsibilities of the HEIs, such as being ‘civic’ and ‘entrepreneurial’, contributing to both social and economic advancements in their regions. This transformation is particularly necessary, given the lack of student exposure to real-life challenges in traditional settings, and skills mismatches experienced upon graduation, with what is demanded by both modern industry and the society.

However, despite efforts, direct links between universities and cities are still weak. Urban engagement is not an inherent component of HE systems, nor are they a part of ongoing academic programs. HEIs lack relevant strategies, tools, resources, and knowledge to apply to engage in city initiatives. This is largely due to the alignment of universities with national policies and funding frameworks, and their increasing efforts for international recognition, rather than adopting a ‘Glocalised’ approach to external engagement. Part of the problem for this weak interconnection between universities and regional authorities can also be attributed to failure in understanding the underlying logics that drive each other’s activities.

Why is the HEI involvement in urban development vital?

Given the significant number of European initiatives supported under the umbrella of Urban Agenda, and Smart and Sustainable Cities, it is crucial to expand the bottom up support for the cities to co-develop, test and implement the solutions, and thus consolidate efforts. The HEIs can support anchoring innovation by raising interest in the urban areas they are based in, offer resources, and facilitate change.

Moreover, universities can exploit cities as living labs incorporating the open spaces, institutions, and local community in their research and teaching programs, while transforming their teaching methods from the ‘traditional’ to more ‘current’ ones, by offering adopting problem-based, experiential learning experiences to their students, and fostering the development of much demanded entrepreneurial skills.

To achieve its goals, the UCITYLAB project will target HEIs located in four major cities in Europe – Porto, Ljubljana, Barcelona, and Paris – with their students and academics, respective city governments, NGOs, urban development authorities and community partners and citizens. We believe by joining forces on this project we will be able to leverage a much greater understanding of the needs and solutions for urban challenges, and the ways that could be achieved on our own, thus producing a much more relevant, high quality, sustainable learning resource. Common challenges with urban innovation experienced by the partner cities will allow cross-border collaboration, and exchange of best practices and experiences for joint action, as well as a leading to a greater understanding of approaches to civic engagement, and entrepreneurial activities designed to facilitate this.

In today’s blog post, we asked Gregor Cerinsek (IRI UL) on his perspectives how University of Ljubljana aims to expand its role in the urban community through the UCITYLAB project. 

We live in the age of turbulence. The world is changing and it changes faster and faster, especially due to the exponential growth of technology. The digital transformation is happening so fast that human brains are not even capable to understand it. This rapid progress produces serious challenges which demand action from all of us. The fact is that the majority of people is not against the technological development. However, we should think about and discuss what could happen if we do not think about the consequences of this exponential growth on our society and humanity.

These challenges should affect our education system on all levels and demand for new interactive forms of teaching and learning. Problem is that university education is still mainly based on ex-cathedra lectures and one-directional knowledge passing where students have passive roles. Different faculties are furthermore focusing solely on their narrow academic fields, which leads to lack of communication and cooperation, especially between engineering and natural sciences on one hand side and social sciences and humanities on the other.

With this picture in mind, the Institute for Innovation and Development of University of Ljubljana (IRI UL) aims to foster university-business collaboration addressing real-life challenges of Slovenian industry and society in general. The UniverCity Action Lab project provides an ideal platform to enrich our model by enhancing university-city engagement through interdisciplinary students’ project-based learning. The established platform will serve for exchanging ideas, for identifying pressing societal and environmental challenges, and for co-creating innovative solutions for urban challenges with all key stakeholders involved. Students will work together with wide variety of key urban actors, including the representatives from governmental and non-governmental spheres, public bodies and agencies, educational institutions, all pursuing a common goal – to promote and enhance urban development strategies and inter-connectivity in the Ljubljana city.

We anticipate that the collaboration and intensive learning experience will provide students with an opportunity to demonstrate and apply the knowledge and skills they have gained through the existing university curriculum and to contribute to professional practice as discipline experts. In addition, academics (teachers, professors) will become aware of the multidisciplinary complexity of technology and urban development and will be furthermore challenged to modify their way of teaching to these new circumstances. Industry and all other stakeholders involved will get a fresh perspective in relation to product and service development – especially how to assess, understand and incorporate users/citizens and their needs. The project will provide valuable insights into “wicked problems” and “big unknowns” that the city and society is facing (such as climate change or urban development). It will contribute towards understanding of human dynamics and will uncover the surprising and complex ways in which people and citizens make decisions. Finally, when it comes to solving the city challenges, we will try to question the “taken for granted” by looking at it from an “outside-the-box” perspective and encouraging creative, trans-disciplinary insights.

Exciting times ahead!

In today’s post we asked Rui Coutinho and Catarina Reis about the involvement of the Porto Business School (PBS) in the UCITYLAB project, the vision of PBS in their engagement with urban stakeholders, and the potential impact of these collaborations on the city.

Porto Business School (PBS) was founded 30 years ago to address a common challenge: the gap between the levels of qualification and skills that Higher Education Institutions (HEI) delivered to young professionals and the level of expectations and demand companies requested to their workers. PBS was born out of the will and the passion of a few business people and the vision and boldness of the University of Porto. Still today, PBS’s governance model displays this unique DNA: academia and companies are shareholders, with equal decision power, and the educational offer is fully aligned with identified market needs.

Today, however, we are witnessing new collaboration models and new untapped opportunities: HEI’s are not taking full advantage (nor being active problem solvers) of the urban ecosystems they are based in. We know for quite some time that universities don’t have only the mission of teaching and researching, but in fact they are progressively getting involved with their surroundings, which means having an active role in their communities’ progress. It is not enough for universities to create knowledge, it is mandatory that that knowledge results in real economic value, but also social, cultural and environmental value. This goal can only be achieved if everyone is involved with a true triple-helix approach: universities, companies and cities working side by side to identify and co-create new solutions for collective urban problems, aiming at a sustainable economic, social, cultural and environmental added value. PBS aims at being on the edge of this co-creation, which motivated its participation on UCITYLAB.

Entrepreneurship is part of PBS’s DNA. That’s why we believe that, in order to truly co-create new solutions for the cities, we need to include technology centres and incubators, to support startups and spin-offs creation or to organise new open innovation challenges. These actions will only be successful if we identify the problems and needs the city presents, if the potential new products or services are able to solve them, if they are able to exploit the city’s resources, if they have a strong business case and also if they take advantage of the upstream and downstream synergies in its value chain. In conclusion, it is crucial to know if the potential new solutions and business models fit the city’s characteristics.

Besides that, we believe that looking into the city we are based in and detecting the challenges it faces, as well as the biggest tendencies, it’s the best way to be innovative in our education portfolio, developing learning methodologies and programs that enable the improvement of the needed skills for the city progress.

Furthermore, we are a collaborative school, differentiated due to the knowledge sharing and value co-creation, so the establishment of partnerships with city stakeholders is perfectly aligned with our modus operandi, being potentially beneficial not only for this specific project, but also for future opportunities. Therefore, we expect that UCITYLAB will enable PBS to help solving some societal challenges in Porto, in partnership with the city government and all the urban stakeholders and will inspire our students to the topic of co-creation for urban development.

By learning with other cities’ good practices and by testing new co-creation practices and solutions, we aim at helping the city of Porto’s endeavours to become a smarter city by creating a new course on urban co-creation that remains beyond the project lifetime, reinforcing the constant connection between PBS and the city and, therefore, having a positive impact on its citizens lives.

Erasmus+ Strategic Partnership Project University-City Action Lab (UCITYLAB) kick-off meeting has been held in Porto on 29-30 October, bringing together 5 consortium partners with representatives from Porto Business School, (Portugal); Institute for Innovation and Development of University of Ljubljana(Slovenia); Autonomous University of Barcelona (Spain), Institut Mines-Télécom (France); and University Industry Innovation Network (Netherlands).

To be coordinated by Porto Business School (PBS) over the next 30 months, the UCITYLAB consortium will aim to embed Europe’s education and knowledge institutions into their urban environment to unlock their innovation potential and address metropolitan challenges. To achieve this, the project will first (i) map the status-quo of HEI practices involving city engagement at the national and international level, (ii) launch UCITYLAB Networks in the partner countries to start conversations with regional stakeholders for collaborative innovation, (iii) prepare the UCITY Challenge course program, and (iv) implement the program in two phases of theory and real-life projects the students will undertake together with city stakeholders.

The efforts will be put forward to strengthen the relationships between HEIs and their urban communities, build the understanding and practice of social innovation, entrepreneurship and urban development among HEI students, and in the long term to foster economic and social development in the cities where the partner institution are located. The role of the UIIN in the consortium will be prominent in the development of the knowledge base, supporting the development of University-City networks, as well as in the dissemination of the project outputs through its diverse range of channels.