Routes to Urban Research and Innovation – RURI

Stimulating European research and urban innovation

What is the added value of European knowledge development for urban areas? And how can we get the most out of it? These were the central issues at the Routes to Urban Research and Innovation (RURI) event held on 13 April, where academics, municipal civil servants, small and large businesses and urban interest groups came together to share their knowledge and learn from each other.

Cities as the drivers of our economy

Cities are the drivers of our economy. More and more people are working in urbanised regions. This raises new questions about vitality, quality of life and accessibility. Urban research and innovation is a must if we are to meet challenges and seize opportunities. And European cities can learn a lot from each other. Keynote speakers Margit Noll (Chair of the JPI Urban Europe Management Board) and Markku Markkula (President of the European Committee of the Regions shared their experiences of urban knowledge development and exchange.

‘We need to understand the different stakeholders in urban innovation. We need to start speaking each other’s language,’ said Dr Noll, presenting the JPI Urban Europe research programme for European urban research and innovation projects. Mr Markkula called for more joint action, explaining that ‘cities can’t wait four years for results from researchers: we need to work together from the start.’


Participants also shared their knowledge and experience of European knowledge development in two rounds of workshops. These included workshops on the role of higher professional education institutions in Europe, urban knowledge development, Amsterdam as a Smart City, and the EU Urban Agenda – a European Commission policy instrument for finding solutions to urban problems. It was a unique opportunity for stakeholders in urban research to learn more, get inspired and work towards solutions. All output of the workshops is shared on this page.

Workshop 1: Amsterdam as a Smart City
The formulated challenge for the workshop was: “AMS Institute combines partners from different sectors. How would you contribute to novel metropolitan solutions?”. Participants were challenged to think not only about their own expertise, but how the combination of expertise areas within the group could be an added value to generating urban solutions.

Workshop 2: Essence
In 2050 80% of the world population will live in cities. How do we make sure that our cities remain livable, accessible and attractive? And how do we educate the future professionals to realize these smart, healthy and sustainable cities? These questions are the starting point for the international project European Sustainable Solutions for Existing and New City Environments (ESSENCE), which the HU University of Applied Sciences started with four other higher education institutions, from the CARPEnetwork and three cities. This workshop gave an introduction in Smart Sustainable Cities and explore the possibilities of higher and professional education for urban knowledge development towards future professions that we can even not imagine yet. ESSENCE is made possible by Erasmus+.

Workshop 3: European Urban Agenda
The European Commission is now working more and more on urban issues, which means working more with cities. Indeed, cities have specific needs, specific assets and are often those who make EU policies a reality on the ground. In addition, the approaches that have been used for the past 15–20 years are decreasing in effectiveness: the challenges facing cities have become increasingly complex and the need for new ideas and approaches is stronger than ever. This is no surprise: there are no permanent solutions to persistent problems such as urban poverty or unemployment. The world changes and our policies must change with it. Hence, the need for increased innovation! This is why the Commission is working on two main initiatives: The EU Urban Agenda as a policy tool to find solutions to the problems faced by cities and the Urban Innovative Actions to experiment new ideas in the real work (‘the urban lab of Europe’). This session about the EU Urban Agenda and what it means for research and innovation in Europe’s urban areas. Olivier Baudelet (Coordinator DG Regional and Urban Policy, European Commission), Pedro Campos Ponce (Advisor European City Policy, Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations) and Mart Grisel (Director European Urban Knowledge Network) moderated this session. The goal of this workshop was to define how the triangle of policy, practice and research can contribute, cooperate and align in order to operate effectively in solving the urban issues.

Workshop 4: How to find your way in European Research and be successful too

The first session of this workshop focussed on the on scientific projects and cooperation between scientists and other urban stakeholders in the JPI Urban Europeprogram. What possibilities for urban innovation can be found in JPI Urban Europe? And what is the secret of being successful in these kinds of projects? With Arjan van Binsbergen (Delft University of Technology / JPI Urban Europe), Federico Savini (University of Amsterdam) and Edwin van Uum (bureau Noordzuiden). The second session of this workshop focussed on urban innovation from the perspective of urban stakeholders. What does ‘Europe’ have to offer? What can we learn from experiences of successful consultancies and the Amsterdam Economic Board? With Ronald Jorna (Mobycon) and Audrie van Veen (Amsterdam Economic Board). The participants have collected and discussed several recepies for being succesful during the workshop.

Workshop 5: Opportunities for applied universities in Europe’s Smart cities programs
European programs

like Horizon 2020 and INTERREG support applied research into Smart Cities. In addition, there are dedicated instruments such as the Urban Innovative Actions. The type of applied research that is funded by European programs often is practice-oriented, includes pilots and requires collaboration with users and SMEs. This type of research very well fits the research activities of Dutch Universities of Applied Sciences (UAS). Moreover, the Dutch UAS have developed a relevant track record of regional and (inter)national projects to underpin European ambitions.
Technopolis Group explored how Dutch UAS can be more successful in participating in European programs that support Smart Cities research. Building on an analysis of relevant programs, a number of recommendations for UAS were developed. This concerns, for instance, strategic topics such as the selection of Smart Cities domains (environment, mobility,etc.), investments in living labs and other research facilities, collaboration within one UAS and among UAS, pitching UAS as the ‘impact partner’ in consortia, and the selection of programs and instruments. A second set of recommendations concerns framework conditions. One example is administrative support for research groups that are joining European platforms (to anticipate calls), preparing European proposals and managing projects. The workshop was action-driven. For each recommendation (priority setting, facilities, collaboration, selecting EU programs, internal support, etc.) workshop participants were invited to discuss how the recommendation could be implemented by UAS (and how this might differ between UAS), which organizations are crucial for implementing the recommendation and what the first steps should be.


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