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JPI Urban Europe has a number of projects that are led by Dutch scientists. Four of these projects were set up in the first round: CONCOORD, APRILlab, Gentrification 2.0 and IMAGINATION. These projects have now been running for over a year, so how do things stand and how is cooperation with the non-scientific parties ‘in the field’? Researchers report on the current situation.
Professor Willem Salet and university lecturer Federico Savini are at the helm of the project APRILab – Action Oriented Planning Regulation and Investment dilemmas in the context of Living Lab (www.aissr.uva.nl/APRILab). APRILab deals with innovative spatial planning processes. Savini explains: ‘The growing trend is that spatial planning processes are realized with more freedom and flexibility plus greater participation of citizens and self-organization than before. Nowadays, spatial planning is much more small-scale and short-term-oriented and changes in the urban space take place in smaller steps rather than through big projects. Moreover, many stakeholders in spatial planning expect that this will help take us out of the crisis. We want our research to take a critical look at this new trend and ask what works and what doesn’t work, as well as what innovations are needed, and what elements can stay as they are. We mainly focus on three different aspects: interventions, regulations and investments. Four universities in different European cities are carrying out research into these three aspects. That way, each of us has their own nearby Living Lab.’
Savini’s team is working on a ‘community of practice’ consisting of various Amsterdam stakeholders that are involved in the research, such as several municipal departments, the Arcam Centre for Architecture, housing associations, developers and citizens via the community IJburg Droomt-IJburg Doet (IJburg dreams, IJburg acts). Savini: ‘All these stakeholders are familiar with the three aspects we are studying. That’s not surprising, as they’re the result of previous research and we’ve also kept the definition of the APRILab problem as open as possible to make room for input from the project partners. The Amsterdam city council, for example, are very responsive. The stakeholders understand the importance of the issues we’re dealing with. They are given scientific feedback on their decisions. Because each stakeholder has its own role, position and interest in the planning process, they are bound to disagree on many points. So we discuss our findings in workshops, and organize dialogues with and between the stakeholders in such a way that there’s a good chance they find common elements they can use in their planning processes.’
Professor Tom van Woensel (Enschede University of Technology) is leading the project Consolidation and Coordination in urban areas (CONCOORD) on the sustainability of urban freight transport. ‘We have joined forces with several European scientific parties and other parties to work on an integrated urban freight transport simulation environment, and on a measurement framework for the environmental footprint of transport and logistics and for the performance of new, innovative urban transport and logistic concepts. First, we had to set up our lab environment. All our materials for this have been made available on www.wiki4city.eu. We consult various partners from the logistic practice, such as FloraHolland, Proctor & Gamble, Heineken and BinnenstadService. That way, we actively search for case studies and business cases to put our expertise to the test.’ Van Woensel thinks that especially logistic service providers, shipping agents and managers in cities will make use of the knowledge provided by CONCOORD. ‘We see the year 2015 as a year of further cooperation, to enable us to build case studies together with partners in the field on the basis of their current problems. All of them are dealing with the question of how they can reach the city effectively.’
Gentrification 2.0 focuses on neighbourhood improvement. Professor Arnoud Lagendijk (Radboud University in Nijmegen) leads the project and explains: ‘Since it was first noticed in the 1960s, gentrification, broadly defined as the influx of middle-class and higher-class households into poorer inner-city neighbourhoods, has been highly controversial. It’s a complex issue, which we want to approach in a new way. Previous approaches were rather one-sided or too general. We want to pay more attention to specific urban practices underlying the overall figures and stories about gentrification. We start from the current ‘position of the district’, as reflected in the existing figures and statistics of the neighbourhood, and work from there towards promising prospects and practices that cannot be quantified in these figures. The explicit goal is to give the project partners a picture of the possible scenarios for neighbourhood improvement. To achieve this, we make an interactive GIS (geographical information system) instrument, which makes research results available to a wider audience, aiming mainly at interested urban designers, academics, politicians and people working in the field. A website with interactive maps and stories is also part of the project.’
Lagendijk says: ‘We are in contact with various players: entrepreneurs, community organizations, housing associations, investors, the city council, residents, and estate agents. In the course of the year, other kinds of players will follow, such as political parties and visitors. Some of these parties are represented in the advisory council, which regularly meets to think along with the research project. Apart from that, the Viennese team gives advice to Einfach15, a local network of entrepreneurs, the creative industry and artists. The network was awarded a grant in the autumn of 2014, and is now setting up a programme of activities. The Viennese team is in close contact with the organizers of the programme. We will examine to what extent the GIS instrument we are developing within Gentrification 2.0 can support the work of Einfach15.’
The fourth project conducted by Dutch scientists is IMAGINATION – Urban Implications and Governance of CEE migration (http://www.project-imagination.eu). Professor Godfried Engbersen of the Erasmus University in Rotterdam coordinates the project, and Mark van Ostaijen is PhD student. The project focuses on trends and consequences of migration flows within the EU. The organization of public services for these migrants is one of the issues. The differentiation between the different groups of migrants plays an important role. Length of stay and socio-economic status in the recipient countries are determining factors.
IMAGINATION focuses on urban areas in Austria, the Netherlands, Sweden and Turkey, and also includes the perspective of the EU countries from where the migration mainly occurs. Van Ostaijen: ‘Two things stand out. First, the EU migration in the four countries appears to be feminizing – there are relatively more women migrating compared to men. Furthermore, we are seeing a deskilling of migrants. Their labour market position does not always correspond with their original level of education and qualifications. We wish to examine this further.’
IMAGINATION cooperates with partners in the field in various ways. Van Ostaijen explains: ‘Our cofinancers, the Dutch Ministry of the Interior and the Rotterdam city council, receive regular updates. Apart from that, we regularly discuss our research with other parties, such as the Ministry of Security and Justice, and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment. A completely different form of contact with the field is realized through the research itself, by way of the Urban Living Lab sessions, a kind of focus group. These sessions play a part in data collection as well as in knowledge diffusion. People in the field can include governmental policymakers, but also representatives of organizations dealing with the housing and employment of EU migrants.’
The researchers feel that EU migration is a socially and politically urgent issue. Van Ostaijen: ‘We notice that policymakers wish to receive regular updates about new findings. For example, we distinguish between the different types of migrants. If there’s a problem with a particular group – like the children of East European parents – then policymakers are anxious to find out what specific details we have about such a group. Another topical issue is the temporary character of migration, and the difference between a short, medium and long stay in the Netherlands. This, for example, requires different housing provision and, in turn, will lead to integration issues. Our partners wish to be kept informed about those issues.’
The researchers are in no doubt about what they wish to achieve with regard to the programming of research into EU migration. ‘It’s very hard to do a longitudinal study, especially through second or even third flow funding, but this is exactly what we need to follow things like trends in migration patterns. Just finding out how things stand every now and then is not sufficient if we want to acquire good insight.’
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 857160.