you're reading...
BLOG, Events

How can European cities become smart and sustainable?

Written by Mihalis Kritikos

Urban stakeholders, urban policy-makers and representatives from the European institutions and beyond joined the STOA workshop ‘Transition towards Sustainable and Liveable Urban Futures’ on 29 September in Brussels. The event was chaired by Paul Rübig MEP, STOA Chair, and moderated by Jan Olbrycht MEP, President of the European Parliament’s URBAN Intergroup.

The workshop, which marked the launch of the Joint Programming Initiative (JPI) Urban Europe Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda (SRIA) for European urban areas and cities, took place at the European Parliament (EP) and was jointly organised by the EP’s Science and Technology Options Assessment (STOA) Panel and the URBAN Intergroup, together with the Directorate-General for Research and Innovation (DG RTD) of the European Commission (EC). The aim of the workshop was to discuss the role of research and science in transforming cities into smart and sustainable thriving areas. One important feature of the programme was a panel discussion with mayors from four European cities (Bristol, Udine, Trikala and Delft) sharing their thoughts about the future and experiences of implementing new technology-based solutions in their cities.

In his opening statement, Ingolf Schädler, Chair of the JPI Urban Europe Governing Board, said on the Urban Europe initiative: ”We are the missing link that can make a difference, bridging silos with an integrated approach, linking national and European funding and linking science and policy”. Paul Rübig MEP elaborated and emphasised the work of STOA in tackling urban-related challenges and made a special reference, along with Jan Olbrycht MEP, to the ”need to involve cities as partners in inter- and transdisciplinary research and innovation with the cities’ challenges in focus.”

All speakers praised the timely character of this interdisciplinary approach in relation to other important urban initiatives on a European and global level, for example the EU Urban Agenda, and the UN-Habitat’s Global Urban Agenda. The role of cities as key actors and partners of research and innovation was repeatedly mentioned. Lambert van Nistelrooij MEP, Vice-President of the URBAN Intergroup, suggested that cities should let go of the controlling government approach and instead apply an invitational approach opening up to more research and closer cooperation with citizens, NGOs and activists to implement action-driven policies at the local level.

The notion that cities can be used as laboratories for jointly developing and testing new solutions is supported by European policy-makers and by decision-makers in cities. The four mayors – George Ferguson (Bristol, UK), Furio Honsell (Udine, Italy), Dimitris Papastergiou, (Trikala, Greece) and Bas Verkerk (Delft, the Netherlands) – all showcased examples of how they use their cities as laboratories for technological experiments that could improve the quality of urban life. Kurt Vandenberghe, from DG RTD, EC, announced a call within Horizon 2020 for financing urban living labs to test new concepts and nature-based solutions in real-life urban settings, in order to create a global market for cost-efficient answers to combat local heat island effects, extreme weather events etc.

To conclude, speakers emphasised that innovation, social equality and inclusion in cities should go hand in hand. However, proving how innovation leads to social benefits and cohesion in cities remains a challenge. According to George Ferguson, Mayor of Bristol: ”Research can provide data and help evaluate the social benefits of innovation so that city leaders are armed with the arguments for change, since citizens do not see these benefits before they happen.”

Further concerns were expressed about how smart city concepts can increase the divide among citizens, and the challenges posed by the escalating refugee crisis.


If you missed the event, check it out here.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

About Scientific Foresight (STOA)

The Scientific Foresight Unit (STOA) carries out interdisciplinary research and provides strategic advice in the field of science and technology options assessment and scientific foresight. It undertakes in-depth studies and organises workshops on developments in these fields, and it hosts the European Science-Media Hub (ESMH), a platform to promote networking, training and knowledge sharing between the EP, the scientific community and the media. All this work is carried out under the guidance of the Panel for the Future of Science and Technology (STOA), composed of 27 MEPs nominated by 11 EP Committees. The STOA Panel forms an integral part of the structure of the EP.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Download the EPRS App

EPRS App on Google Play
EPRS App on App Store
What Europe Does For You
EU Legislation in Progress
Topical Digests
EPRS Podcasts

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 3,301 other followers

RSS Link to Scientific Foresight (STOA)

Disclaimer and Copyright statement

The content of all documents (and articles) contained in this blog is the sole responsibility of the author and any opinions expressed therein do not necessarily represent the official position of the European Parliament. It is addressed to the Members and staff of the EP for their parliamentary work. Reproduction and translation for non-commercial purposes are authorised, provided the source is acknowledged and the European Parliament is given prior notice and sent a copy.

For a comprehensive description of our cookie and data protection policies, please visit Terms and Conditions page.

Copyright © European Union, 2014-2019. All rights reserved.

%d bloggers like this: