In many respects cities and urban areas – dynamic as they are - are focal points of the global knowledge economy. This has been confirmed by the URBACT I-project STRIKE and much other research. However, great differences exist between urban areas. Internationally connected metropolitan areas are seen to be the driving force in the global economy and their relative position to medium sized cities such as those represented in RUnUP is likely to escalate further – meaning medium sized cities, with their own knowledge infrastructure and economic resources face a challenge to remain (or in some cases become) competitive.
These medium sized Urban Poles are important to the future of the modern European place. They are of significant size (50,000 to 200,000 inhabitants), often have universities and technology infrastructure, and play an important role for their region and for clusters in specific industrial sectors. These characteristics make them suitable for contributing to the EU-wide agenda to increase the overall capacity of local and regional players in enhancing science and technology based development. Both cities and regions need to strengthen their capacity for investing in and conducting R&D activities in a way which can contribute to economic development and competitiveness and ultimately, the realisation of the Lisbon Strategy. Research infrastructure is often in or near such Urban Poles, such as universities, research centres and technological institutes create pockets of high quality research and training that RUnUP cities need to take advantage of. Universities for example, fulfil various special functions - initiating and supporting (technology-oriented) start-ups; providing scientific background for industry-oriented networks and competences; functioning as the motor, responsible body and partner for technology transfer and the local spread of knowledge. Indirect effects for cities and regions of such research infrastructure are significant and include, for example, an increasing employment rate of highly qualified personnel. Moreover, the existence of innovation infrastructure offers potential to strengthen triple helix partnerships, enabling interaction between research, business and local/regional authorities. Access to research provision and the integration of economic actors into research driven clusters are key challenges for enhancing economic development, innovation and entrepreneurship at the local level. Such a use of research infrastructures as a catalyst for economic development within cities is of critical importance and informs the purpose of RUnUP. Furthermore, how universities and research centres interact within the wider triple helix relationship and pool their research expertise is also an area of importance. Modernising the management of research institutions and universities has been acknowledged as a core condition for the success of the Lisbon Strategy. Such a modernisation agenda which links to the RUnUP project could include policy recommendations around stimulating geographical and inter-sectoral mobility, building new governance systems, overcoming fragmentation, providing incentives for building partnerships with the business community, building an entrepreneurial mindset amongst researchers and optimising the current mix of funding streams. This all acknowledges the critical role that developing and using RUnUP city endogenous potentials, especially universities, is crucial.
What motivates you to be part of the URBACT adventure ?
Urban Poles – small cities with between 50,000 and 200,000 inhabitants – have been identified a key in driving forward economic performance and innovation within the context of the Lisbon and Gothenburg strategies. The strategic development of existing economies is, therefore, crucial and universities have a critical role in this innovation process. Traditionally, however, urban poles do not make sufficient use of existing university knowledge and competencies and could be better involved in supporting economic development and encourage entrepreneurship. In the most simplistic terms, the RUnUP Thematic Network – the Role of Universities for economic development in Urban Poles – aims to bring universities, the private sector, and public sector organisations together and work in a ‘triple-helix’ partnership to support economic development and encourage entrepreneurship.
Who would you like to benefit from the work achieved in your project?
Gateshead Council (in the North East of England) are delighted to undertake the role of Lead Partner within the network. In the current economic climate, it is more important than ever to work in partnership and build on existing relationships to help local economies thrive through the introduction of new, creative and innovative businesses. Furthermore, working alongside other European partners will give RUnUP an even greater chance of success through sharing and learning from each other and elsewhere in Europe. It is hoped that the RUnUP project will not only benefit the local populations of the cities involved in the project but moreover it will have a positive impact across Europe by communicating and disseminating the projects key outputs and activities.