Mid-sized urban centres (50,000 to 200,000 inhabitants) are key players in Europe’s future. They are home to universities, technological facilities and play a considerable role in their regions and for industrial competence clusters. All these assets make them contributors to the agenda set by the European Union to increase the power of local and regional actors by improving development based on science and technology. From this perspective, universities, research centres and technological institutes are seedbeds, both for research and for training, and the urban centres must learn to take more advantage of them for supporting their economic development and boosting business. For three years, the eight partner cities of the URBACT RUnUP project focussed their actions on developing “triple helix” structures in which municipalities, university and businesses shared a common vision and ambition.
Main ResultsConclusions and recommendations focussing on the three major challenges identified by the RUnUP project 1- Understanding the economic transformation and governance of innovation
Local authorities often supply services that do not match the local economic transformation, and they do not mobilise the players in the field of innovation and knowledge around the goal of supporting local development. Better understanding of local economic changes is therefor a necessary prerequisite for developing an approach to partnership.
- It is essential to create local leadership for knowledge economy development.
- Political influences should take a back seat in order to ensure continuity of action and progress.
- Supporting future economic growth should be based on a visionary approach.
- An economic development strategy is the basis for supporting the transformation.
- To establish a knowledge economy in urban centres, local and municipal governments must, above all, do everything they can to demonstrate a strong political commitment and to guide the operational change.
The role played by universities is too often perceived as being limited to supplying specific services to specific players such as start-ups. As for local authorities, they are legitimate managers of the local economic transformation.
- University need to recognize the importance of businesses and the local society in their mission and their vision.
- University need to understand and map their strategic partnerships.
- Traditional research and the development of commercial approaches are limited factors in supporting the economic development of urban clusters.
- European funding programmes must recognize a larger role for university in supporting urban development and recognize the role played by local and municipal governments in innovation and research.
- Member countries should also recognize the importance of involving businesses and local communities in supporting universities’ educational and research activities.
RUnUP partner cities needed to improve their understanding of the knowledge institutions established at the local and regional level. It is only through fully understanding their organisation, contacts, topics that offer opportunities for research and training, an the bridges that already exist between the universities and the local economy, that local authorities can effectively support the development of “triple helix” cooperation (municipality, universities, businesses) and that the university can align their activities with the priorities of local economic development.
- It is necessary to create cooperation platforms between local actors in which the challenges faced by local SMEs can be faced thanks to “triple helix “ cooperation.
- The partners in these platforms must create the conditions needed for the development of knowledge-based activities.
- There is a need for intermediaries that ensure the transfer of knowledge to businesses.