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Smart City-Regional Governance - International Symposium

8 October 2015 , and 9 October 2015, SMIT, Pleinlaan 9, 1st floor (WEBER and MEAD meeting rooms), Vrije Universiteit Brussel

‘Smartness’ in Reconciling Internationality, Competitiveness and Cohesion?

Registration for the symposium is now closed!

This symposium sets out to explore the meaning and practice of ‘smartness’ in city-regional governance as it seeks to balance the competing quests for urban international competitiveness, national economic development and societal cohesion. The symposium also marks the decennial of ‘Regionalisation Symposia’ regularly organised since 2005 by the Centre for Urban and Regional Governance (University of Westminster) and the International City-Regional Policy Network (ICRPol.Net).

Globalisation has continuously increased the pressure on states, regions and localities to compete for presumed footloose capital in a bid to secure economic ‘growth’ as predominant indicator of ‘success’. This has increasingly resulted in a focus on cities and city-regions as identified ‘motors’ of regional and national economic development, questioning the role of large-scale state policies. Such questions have become more pertinent under the impact of now eight years of fiscal austerity, with state capacity to intervene in market-driven competitiveness increasingly limited. The result has been a growing foray by cities into the international sphere as a way of opening up new prospects and opportunities beyond the confines of the respective state as their traditional political-economic context.

One key narrative in particular that has been mobilised in the last decade has been that cities are ‘smart cities’. Smart cities are understood as entrepreneurial cities that respond immediately and efficiently to changes in global markets, as wired cities in which urban technologies contribute to better urban governance and management of infrastructures, or as cities in which entrepreneurial discoveries and collective experimentations lead to strategic specialisation. Such new, more experimental and enterprising policy making may be viewed as an expression of ‘smartness’ in urban governance, i.e. as a ‘new’ way of doing things, especially also when dealing with conflicting agendas and aspirations. Yet, the meanings of, and pre-conditions for, adopting and implementing ‘smartness’ vary considerably between places, influencing the propensity for its discursive and practical manifestations. A differing concentration or ‘density’ of ‘smartness’ sets apart cities from other, less politically capable, entrepreneurial or locationally attractive cities, but also from non-urban regions – be they part of a wider city-region, or located beyond. ‘Smartness’ may thus be understood in a broader sense than its conventional association with ‘smart growth’.

Such change has not only included the ‘obvious candidates’ – the global cities like London or New York, but also other, less often quoted cities. Whether ‘second tier’ cities, regional capitals or more peripheral urban places, cities are trying to raise their profiles and be recognised as places that ‘matter’. Be it through trans-border collaborations, joining city networks for specific policy agendas, or being granted a special status, even if merely temporary (e.g. ‘European Capital of Culture’), urban-centric competitiveness increasingly differentiates between such places and the less visible ‘rest’.

This raises questions about the nature of state territories as presumed homogenous entities in political and administrative terms, as well as access to democratic representation and policy legitimation. If some localities or regions are seemingly gaining more voice than others, such egality may no longer be provided. So, the question this symposium tries to explore concerns the scope for ‘smart’ cities and city regions to ‘go it alone’ in terms of seeking improved economic competitiveness, yet also – at the same time - respond to the demand for remaining part of a wider political and societal entity – the region or state.

How can ‘smartness’ in politics and policy-making help square that circle of a seeming conflict, even contradiction, between the quest for competitiveness – also at the behest of the region and state – international engagement, and the expectation of maintaining solidarity with, and responsibility for, the same larger entities. In other words, is urban competitiveness part of, or an alternative to, the idea of a cohesive society and state territory, where unevenness in developmental prospects is the new accepted ‘reality’? And can ‘smartness’ in governance ‘square the circle’ of seemingly conflicting interests and agendas?

Final programme

Thursday 8 October 2015

12.00-12.30: arrival, registration and coffee/sandwiches

12.30-12.45: welcome and introduction (Bas van Heur and Tassilo Herrschel): ‘Smartness’ as a multi-dimensional phenomenon

12.45-13.45: keynote lecture Andrew Jonas (University of Hull): Variegated city-regionalism: the competition state and the contingent 'geopolitics of capitalism' (chair/discussant: Yonn Dierwechter, University of Washington, Tacoma)

13.45-14.00: coffee break

14.00-16.30: paper session on spatial smartness (2 parts) (chair/discussant: Gary Paget, Govt of British Columbia)

The aim of this session is to explore the spatial dimension of ‘smartness’, i.e. the innovative use of, or engagement with, territory in city-regional governance. This includes the projection of ‘soft’ or ‘virtual’ spaces as part of collaborative forms of governance, as in ‘new regionalism’, for instance, be that through city networks, trans-border  engagement or international representation and lobbying.

Part 1 (14.00-15.15)

  • Walter Leitermann (German Cities’ Association): Democracy and normative ‘smart city’
  • Ties Vanthillo and Ann Verhetsel (University of Antwerp), The Geographical Scope of Sector-based Regional Strategies
  • Ola Nord – City of Malmö (planning dept and Brussels office): Cities and International Engagement (tbc)
  • Marius Guderjan (Humboldt University Berlin) and Jan Gustaf Magnus Lindh (Karlstad University), Better Together or Apart? English and Swedish Regions and their European Engagement

15.15-15.30: coffee break

Part 2 (15.30-16.30)

  • Igor Calzada (University of Oxford), What Do We Talk about when We Talk about Political Innovation in the Age of Devolution? Comparing ‘Smartness’ in Scotland, Catalonia and the Basque Country
  • Dorota Zaluska (Gdansk University of Technology), Integration of Strategic Planning and a Project-oriented Approach in the Gdansk Bay City-Region:  A Case of Implementing Smart Urban-Regional Governance (tbc)
  • James Evans, Andrew Karvonen (University of Manchester), Kes McCormick (University of Lund) and Gregory Trencher (Clark University), Smartness and the Disintegration of the city

16.30-16.45: coffee break

16.45-17.30: debriefing session, highlighting / commenting some of the key points emerging from papers of the day

20.00: symposium dinner for all speakers

Friday 9 October

8.45-9.15: arrival, registration, coffee

9.15-10.45: paper session on data/information smartness (chair/discussant: Nils Walravens, SMIT, VUB)

The focus of this session is on technology-oriented ways of understanding 'smartness'. In this context, the role and nature of data and information, and their usage matters: not just to optimise governance processes in the context of efficient and effective service delivery, but also in terms of finding application tools, such as mobile apps, to facilitate, or even permit, the implementation of novel and innovative forms of urban policy.

  • David Wachsmuth (McGill University, Montreal), Saving the City with Data, from Ekistics to Urbanology
  • Simon Delaere (SMIT, VUB): The Creative Ring as Inter-Regional Empowering Network for European Creative Cities
  • Didier Grimaldi (Politecnica de Catalunya Barcelona): Barcelona Smartness’ reconciling Internationality, Competitiveness and Cohesion
  • Stefano di Vita, Corinna Morandi and Andrea Rolando (Politecnico di Milano): From smart city to smart region: digital services for an internet of places

10.45-11.00: coffee break

11.00-12.15: paper session on experimental smartness (chair/discussant: Shenja van der Graaf, SMIT, VUB)

This thematic session looks at experimental policy making in city-regional governance by applying innovative and novel approaches and initiatives, be that through mobilising local civil society, adopting and implementing new mechanisms of collaborative governance, using ‘living labs’ to identify innovative policy measures, or facilitating new ways of linking people and the built urban form.

  • Jean-Paul Addie (University College London), Rethinking the Role of Universities for Smart City-Regional Growth and Governance
  • Christian Scholl, René Kemp, Ron Corvers and Joop de Kraker (Maastricht University), Co-creation of Urban Development: the Case of Maastricht-LAB
  • Rex Stephenson (consultant, City of Unkel) and Christian Rosenzweig (consultant Umweltplanung Bonn), Unkel – City of Culture on the Rhine’: Mobilising Local Engagement with Economic Policy-Making
  • Chiara Testoni (University of Ferrara) and Andrea Boeri (University of Bologna), Smart Governance: Urban Regeneration and Integration Policies in Europe. Turin and Malmö Case Studies
  • Yonn Dierwechter (University of Washington, Tacoma), Universities and the 'Learning' of City-Regionalism

12.15-13.30: buffet lunch

13.30-15.45: paper session on institutional smartness (part 1) (chair: Tassilo Herrschel, University of Westminster and VUB; discussant: Rex Stephenson, City of Unkel, comments from the practitioner's view)

As the name suggests, this theme takes a particular look at the role of institutions in framing, facilitating and/or and implementing smartness in city-regional governance. This involves new ways of formulating policies, adopting novel ways of operationalising them, eg. through forms of collaboration, or defining targets and objectives for policies at the local and/or regional level.

Part 1 (13.30-14.30)

  • Gary Paget (Govt of British Columbia): City-Regional Governance – Can It be Made to ‘Happen’? The Case of Greater Vancouver and Beyond
  • Nicola Dotti (Cosmopolis, VUB), Who Knows How to Make Policies In an Institutionally Fragmented Metropolis? The New Rail Junction of Brussels
  • Shenja van der Graaf and Wim Vanobberghen (SMIT, VUB), The Politics of Governance, Citizen Participation and the City: Here Comes the Revolution?

14.30-14.45: coffee break

Part 2 (14.45-15.45)

  • Gerd Lintz (Leibniz Institute Dresden), A Conceptual Framework for Analysing Intermunicipal Cooperation on the Environment
  • Dan Greenwood (University of Westminster) and Alina Congreve (University of Hertfordshire): Towards Smart, Streamlined Regulation? The Definition and Delivery of Policy and Standards for Low and Zero Carbon Homes In Three English Cities
  • Nils Walravens (SMIT, VUB), From Smart Cities to Local Innovation Platforms

15.45-16.30 roundtable: ‘Smartness’ in city-regions : More than a trendy term?

End of the formal part of the symposium.

This is followed by:

17.30-19.30: Stadssalonsurbains public lecture Tassilo Herrschel, Beursschouwburg: ‘Smartness’ in Governing City-Regions – Why the Fuss?

All Welcome