Answering the Urban Call

Rond Point Schuman taxiFunny old thing Europe. Just when you think it can’t pass another silly law, it goes and sets up the Joint Programming Initiative to sort out some of Europe’s (and the world ‘s) most intractable problems, involving some of Europe’s (and the world’s) cleverest people. All except me that is.  I can’t be, because why on earth would I get up at 3 am to drive to Gatwick and fly to Brussels to attend JPI’s first Urban Europe get together? And that doesn’t include walking round the Schuman Rond Point several times looking for a Norwegian flag flying outside its Mission that wasn’t there (the flag, not the Mission). Let me explain…

The JPI Urban Europe was set up in 2008 and now has 10 project areas and growing. It’s aim is to co-ordinate national research better amongst member nations to solve problems. Two heads are better than one, right?  And the JPI area I’m involved in is called Urban Europe – all about addressing Europe’s Urban challenges – and within this group, there are a further 20 projects, half of which started over a year ago (Pilot Call 1) and the other half just a few weeks ago – days really (Pilot Call 2).  Stay with me, I’m getting there…

So I am collaborating with 4 other research bodies or agencies from Austria, Italy, the Netherlands and the UK on one project (Project Irene, if you want to know), who are working alongside 19 other research project teams (each containing 4 or 5 consortia members) in Urban Europe, which is one of 10 JPIs.  That’s an awful lot of research – we had better come up with some answers!

The reason I was circling Schuman Rond Point looking for a Norwegian flag that wasn’t there was because those very clever people who are running the Urban Europe JPI (Management Board they were referred to today) thought it would be a good idea if we all got together and worked out what synergies there might be across the different project teams. And they were right – there were!

The point is, that research can sometimes be blinkered about just delivering an answer to a question, when in reality it might be answering other questions in the process. To illustrate this point, the project I’m involved in, Project Irene, is all about looking at the challenges of energy resilience in a Smart(er) City of the future, where energy generation and distribution would become more localised ( I knew you’d be interested) and one of the problems to be solved is how to improve energy storage.  And we were talking to another project in our cluster, called E4Share, who are looking at an electric car sharing ecosystem.  Really interesting. From their perspective, electric cars were part of a transportation system, but from ours, they were mobile batteries.

So well done, you Urban Europe lot – good call.

Let’s do a bit more of this sharing and collaborating lark, either face to face (if travel budgets can cope) or through an online portal for when they can’t.


Mike Davis-Marks, Ethos

Project Irene




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