Written by Mihalis Kritikos
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In the 21st century, the world enters the urban age; in which the urban half of the global population is responsible for around 80 % of global economic activity. The European Union is more urban still, with 75 % of its citizens living in cities and urban areas. Under such pressure, how can cities develop and grow sustainably? Can city authorities work with researchers to find innovative solutions to complex urban challenges? And do the European institutions have a role to play?
Boosting urban capacity to deliver jobs and welfare, ensure societal cohesion, and support robust economic activities, hinges on the position of cities as hubs of innovation and centres of cultural dialogue. Creating sustainable and inclusive environments where people can live and work demands care of the environment and preservation of natural resources. So how can these two, potentially conflicting, directions be pulled together to ensure the liveable city of the future? Evolving decision-making tools, and experimental research such as urban living labs and urban observatories, provide pathways to transforming our cities, but gaps remain between the visions, and their implementation on the ground. Are cities already too complex to change?
On 29 September 2015, the Science and Technology Options Assessment (STOA) Panel of the European Parliament will host a workshop entitled Transition Towards Sustainable and Liveable Urban Futures. The seminar will be chaired by STOA Chair Paul Rübig, MEP, and Jan Olbrycht, MEP and President of the URBAN Intergroup of the European Parliament, will open the event, which is co-hosted with the Joint Programming Initiative (JPI) Urban Europe, the URBAN Intergroup and the Directorate-General for Research and Innovation of the European Commission.
The event coincides with the launch of the JPI Urban Europe Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda (SRIA). JPI Urban Europe is a Member State-led initiative coordinating the urban-related research programmes of the participating countries. The new agenda aims to support EU research into the possibilities for urban transition, by bringing together national and EU research programmes. The agenda will be presented at the STOA event by Margit Noll, Chair of JPI Urban Europe’s Management Board, and Darren Robinson, Professor at Nottingham University (UK), and Chair of JPI Urban Europe’s Scientific Advisory Board.
Also present to share their experiences of managing urban transition in their cities will be Mayors George Ferguson, Bristol (UK), Furio Honsell, Udine (Italy), Dimistris Papastergiou, Trikala (Greece) and Bas Verkerk, Delft (Netherlands). Finally, Inger Gustafsson, Vice-Chair of JPI Urban Europe Governing Board, VINNOVA Swedish Agency for Innovation Systems, Kurt Vandenberghe, Director, European Commission, Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, Bas Verkerk, Member of the Committee of the Regions, Frédéric Saliez, Human Settlements Officer at UN-Habitat Brussels Liaison Office, and Mart Grisel, European Urban Knowledge Network (EUKN) will participate in a panel discussion on transforming cities for 21st century living.