VerDuS is an abbreviation of the Dutch term Verbinden van Duurzame Steden (Connecting Sustainable Cities). Within this knowledge initiative, scientific researchers work together with professionals to develop knowledge that helps address issues relating, for example, to urbanisation, the environment, mobility and transport. VerDuS is an initiative of NWO (the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research), Platform31 and various ministries.
The world population is increasingly becoming concentrated in increasingly larger cities. More people, improved welfare and globalisation are causing a massive growth in mobility and transport, and global warming is also affecting life in the world”s cities. These developments impact on quality of life, accessibility and spatial planning in urban areas. The knowledge developed in the Connecting Sustainable Cities partnership programme is needed to be able to address these issues before it is too late. Researchers are working closely with public partners from the Netherlands and abroad, and the business community is also involved. This ensures that the research responds to real issues in society, and that this is also where the resulting scientific knowledge is applied.
Issues and challenges
Although the nature of and the reasons for the issues may vary, the challenges remain similar. Continued automation and globalisation and the increasing importance of the knowledge industry are causing the further concentration of economic activities in a limited number of urban locations – the “global cities” – while the rest of the world becomes, figuratively speaking, one vast plain. Everyone wants to live and work in these urban locations, or in areas from which they can be easily reached, creating contrasts within regions and countries and with some cities even falling out of favour. The result is a small group of leaders followed by the rest of the pack – cities that resemble and copy one another. This raises policy and knowledge issues in all the cities affected. The path would seem to be clear for the global cities, but where do the chances and opportunities lie for those less fortunate? Global warming is also affecting life in the major cities. These developments impact on quality of life, accessibility and spatial planning in urban areas. For example, although the Netherlands still currently holds a top position in the international logistics sector, partly due to its favourable geographical location, this may not continue to be the case. Action needs to be taken now so that we can continue to process the expected larger flows of goods, and so that we can maintain our favourable business environment.
Place in the NWO strategy
Connecting Sustainable Cities was one of the six NWO themes for the 2011–2014 strategy period. All six themes address topical issues in society: Connecting Sustainable Cities relates to the logistics, water and energy “top sectors” as defined by the Dutch government.
The Connecting Sustainable Cities theme currently consists of the following research programmes, each of which has its own subsite that can be reached by clicking on the relevant tab above the logo on this page or on the title of the programme in the descriptions below.
Consortia of academic researchers and practitioners in urban areas will create knowledge together in the domains of spatial development, housing, accessibility, economy and governance and their interfaces. The first projects will start in 2016.
Densely-populated urban areas are a problem not just in the Netherlands, but in other European countries too. To stimulate cooperation between researchers in different countries, NWO is participating in URBAN EUROPE, a research programme that contributes to vitality, liveability and accessibility in European cities.Former programmesKnowledge for Strong Cities (2008-2014)This programme addressed the strategic issues and challenges that exist in the urban setting. Urban stakeholders are therefore involved in the research, even helping formulate the research question. There is also constant interaction between the cities and researchers for the duration of the programme.Sustainable Accessibility of the Randstad (2008-2014)This programme addressed sustainable mobility issues relating to spatial development, the energy transition and climate change. Various departments contribute to the programme, also financially.URD: Urban Regions in the Delta (2011-2014)URD develops knowledge for sustainable spatial policy and for integrated regional development in urban networks. The research focused on water, quality of life and mobility as well as issues relating to governance and information systems. Research is based on case studies within the Netherlands as well as international comparative research in Europe. The programme is financed by NWO and the Economic Structure Enhancing (FES) Fund – the natural gas revenues used by the government to strengthen the knowledge economy.
ProRail, Technology Foundation STW and the NWO Division for the Social Sciences have joined forces to reduce the vulnerability of the extremely busy Dutch railway infrastructure to disruptions. How can we localise problems in the railway network more quickly? How can we collect the information we need on the condition of the rail infrastructure to be able to make effective decisions for maintenance, planning and repairs? Ultimately, modern measuring techniques, ICT and good management must result in smarter, more efficient maintenance and renewal of the rail infrastructure. ExploRail consists of two sub-programmes: Intelligent Rail Infrastructure and Whole System Performance.In 2012, research teams consisting of scientists from the Netherlands and China were able to submit proposals relating to 'The Application of Operations Research in Urban Transport'. “Operations Research” is an interdisciplinary mathematical science that focuses on the effective use of resources, and areas of application include traffic, public transport and logistics. The proposals submitted were assessed by an international committee that included Chinese researchers. Seven research proposals received funding in January 2013.The NWO Wotro UDW research programme contributes to global water and food security and sustainable economic growth in river deltas. The programme launched its first call for proposals in 2012, in which consortia of scientists and non-scientists from both the northern and the southern hemispheres could take part. The projects focus on knowledge and research, developing instruments, technologies and prospects for action, and promoting the innovative capacity of participants.