News & Events

Experimenting with Urban Living Labs (ULLs) beyond Smart City-Regions

13 February 2017 , 9:00-16:00h, Delegation of the Basque Country to the EU. 27, Rue des Deux Eglises, 1000 Brussels.

Co-organised in partnership by the University of Oxford – Urban Transformations & VUB – Brussels Centre for Urban Studies

Participation is free, but please register here: 

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/experimenting-with-urban-living-labs-ulls-beyond-smart-city-regions-tickets-30193233775

Background
In line with smart city and smart specialisation strategy (S3) policy discourses, various governance implementations have been proposed in European cities and regions without considering appropriately the negotiations between stakeholders, multiple expectations, and possible or desirable urban futures jointly built by them. As such, ‘smart’ technological solutions have not always focused on needs and usability by citizens, and at times generate a governance misalignment between the ‘experimental city’ and publics, citizens and stakeholders.

In this context, to understand the inter-dependent challenges and opportunities for different stakeholders, we might focus on the dynamics of urban complexity, experimental research, and alternative policy approaches to cities and regions. This workshop is an invitation to rethink ‘urban Europe’ around what might be seen as an experimental laboratory ‘turn’ research and policy intervention. Urban Living Labs (ULLs), exemplified by networks such as ENoLL (European Network of Living Labs) foreground projects that present active user involvement, real-life settings, multi-stakeholder participation, multi-method approaches and co-creation.

In contrast, the ‘smartness’ of some European urban strategies is dominated by a technological discourse centred on knowledge flows and data aggregation that allows the city-region to be managed by a given and fixed private and public partnership governance model. Nonetheless, the contemporary city cannot be just reduced to its economic value generated by partnerships involving powerful public and private actors, such as multinational corporations and the state. As Habermas pointed out, “smartness in our city cannot be more technocratic than democratic”.

Paralleling this mainstream approach of smart cities and generally under the loose banner of ULLs, urban laboratory initiatives have been increasingly emerging over the last few years as an approach to speed up socio-technological innovation involving multi-stakeholders in co-production processes, and a form of collective urban governance and experimentation addressing the sustainability challenges and opportunities created by urbanisation. What is currently interesting are the ways that city innovation policies propose highly spatially specific and potentially transformative ‘stakeholder-helixes strategies’ (either triple, quadruple or penta) which recognize that the strategies are in a cross-sectoral blend of the research base, private capital, and public expenditure through invoking civil society that knowledge societies.

An enormous potential for experimental forms in European city-regions exists, as demonstrated by on-going ULL initiatives under the Urban Living Partnership (Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Newcastle and York), JPI Urban Europe schemes and many international schemes such as ENOLL, Mistra Urban Futures, Urban Mechanics, Guggenheim Urban Labs, Urban Lab +, the Guanghzhou International Award for Urban Innovation, Rockefeller 100 resilient cities, GUST snapshots, urb@exp and ERC urban.

Building on the emerging body of these policy initiatives and research, the workshop Experimenting with Urban Living Labs Beyond Smart City-Regions will bring together a group of European academics and policymakers to think through how notions of ‘experimentation’ inform new ways of city working:

1. What does inter-disciplinary integrating place making mean? How can we bring together expertise in areas such as computing, mapping, politics, economy, digital anthropology, spatial analysis and urban planning?
2. How can we deal with multi-stakeholder ‘helix strategies’? What are the roles of the private sector, public authorities, academia, civil society and entrepreneurs/activists in these ULLs initiatives? What should the roles be?
3. How can ULLs, as a form of collective urban governance, positively influence the smart policy agenda in Europe by going beyond its governance implications?
4. What makes the ULL approach attractive and novel?
5. How are ULL initiatives being operationalised in contemporary urban governance for sustainability and low carbon cities?
6. What prospects are there for alternative funding and business models for cities and regions in Europe?
7. What are the practical and political interventions needed within multi-stakeholder approaches, and what are the potential concerns about data technopolitics?
8. Is another urban governance model possible, a third way between state and market?

This workshop considers the relationship between technology, the city and policy innovation in cities and regions around Europe. More broadly, it explores the strategic role of institutions in order to foster regional ecosystems of experimentation engaging the public sector, the private sector, academia, civic society and social entrepreneurs/activists.

Programme
This one-day workshop commences with an introduction from Prof Michael Keith, co-ordinator of the Urban Transformations ESRC portfolio, and Prof Bas van Heur, co-ordinator of the Brussels Centre for Urban Studies. This will be followed by six slots and speakers who are experts in the field: three from the Urban Transformations ESRC portfolio projects and three from the VUB. This workshop will also include small debate groups led by each section. Each group will deliver their conclusions at the end of the workshop.This workshop emphasizes an interdisciplinary dialogue, bridges the gap between theory and practice, and encourages knowledge exchange between academics, policymakers, citizens and activists.

Preliminary Agenda:

9:00-9:15 Welcome: Organisers
Prof Michael Keith (UOxf-UT) & Prof Bas van Heur (VUB-BCUS)

9:15-9:30 Welcome: Host institution & Partnership
Ms Marta Marin (Delegation of the Basque Country to the EU) & Mr Richard Tuffs (Director of ERRIN).

9:30:9:50 Introduction:
Dr Tuija Hirvikoski (President of EnoLL, European Network of Living Labs)

9:50-10:50 Between the ULLs & Smart Cities in the Making
(Section 1/3)

• 9:50-10:20 Prof Simon Marvin (The University of Sheffield – Urban Institute)
Governance of Urban Sustainability Transitions: Advancing the Role of Living Labs

• 10:20-10:50 Prof Gilian Rose (the Open University)
Smart Cities in the Making: Learning from Milton Keynes

• 10:50-11:20 Debate: Between the ULLs & Smart Cities in the Making (Chair: Prof. Michael Keith, UOxf-UT)

11:20-11:50 Coffee-break & Networking

11:50-12:50 Comparing ULLs & Smart City Cases
(Section 2/3)

• 11:50-12:20 Nicola da Schio & Prof Bas van Heur (VUB-BCUS)
SmarterLabs: the environmental politics of air pollution.
JPI-Urban Europe project.

• 12:20-12:50 Dr Nicola Headlam (UOxf-UT)
The Urban Living Global Challenge: Desk research presentation

12:50-13:20 Debate: Comparing ULLs & Smart City Cases (Chair: Prof. Bas Van Heur, VUB-BCUS)

13:20-14:20 Lunchtime

14:20-15:20 Towards Experimental Cities? Forthcoming book presentation and ‘experimental’ interactive roundtable debate (Section 3/3)

• 14:20-14:50 Dr Andrew Karvonen (KTH)

The Experimental City: Politics of Monitoring, Assessing and Scaling 

Book presentation: Evans, J., A. Karvonen and R. Raven, (2016), Experimental City. London and New York: Routledge

• 14:50-15:20 Dr Federico Curugullo (TCD)

Revealing experimental smart cities: the Frankenstein city and the sustainability challenges of De-composed Urbanism

Co-author of the book: comments

15:20-15:50 Debate: Towards Experimental Cities? (Chair: Dr. Igor Calzada, MBA, UOxf-UT)

15:50-16:00 Wrapping-Up and Conclusions (Prof. Michael Keith, UOxf-UT)

In cooperation with:
• ERRIN (European Regions Research and Innovation Network)
• ENoLL (European Networks of Living Labs)