European Week of Regions and Cities
7-10 OCTOBER 2019 Brussels

Joining forces! Science-policy integration for urban development in post-2020

The EU approach towards sustainable urban development promotes better knowledge for better policy. In addition, novel frameworks in EU R&I policy have been put in place towards more sustainable, resilient and liveable urban developments. However, there are many implementation issues on how to foster the science-policy nexus for urban development.
Do you want to know how Amsterdam is working to match research questions of researchers with societal needs and questions of civil servants? What intervention model has been developed in Maribor to strengthen capacity-building and sustainable city management for inclusive and circular community? How Brno is addressing the issue of territorial integration within the metropolitan area? What can we learn from the Open Lab for social innovation promoted by the city of Reggio Emilia?
Join us and engage in lively discussions with researchers, policymakers and EC officers.
With this workshop, the Joint Research Centre in collaboration with JPI Urban Europe and DG RTD aims to collect possible solutions and develop fresh perspectives for the post-2020 urban integrated approach.

Participatory sessions
Territorial development (regional, urban, rural)
European Commission - DG JRC

Session summary

The workshop was co-organised by the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission (JRC), DG Research and Innovation, and JPI Urban Europe.

The aim of the workshop was to explore the science-policy nexus post-2020 by engaging in interactive and structured discussions with a broad group of stakeholders around cities’ challenges in implementing an integrated approach to sustainable urban development.

The participatory session was structured in plenary sessions with contributions from JRC, JPI Urban Europe, DG RTD and DG REGIO, and four parallel sessions, each of them covering a specific topic within the general theme of science-policy integration:

  • Capacity building and sustainable city management

Speakers: Igor Kos (Maribor), Federico Savini (University of Amsterdam),

  • Territorial integration - metropolitan regions, functional areas

Speakers: Sona Raszkova and Jirí Marek (Brno), Anna Badyina (University of Oxford) and Imre Keseru (Vrije Universiteit Brussel)

  • Multi-actor partnership for co-creation

Speakers: Silvia Bizzarri (Reggio Emilia), Oswald Devisch (Hasselt University)

  • Institutional innovation

Speakers: Caroline Nevejan (Amsterdam), Miren Estensoro (Orkestra)


The European Union has developed a thorough discourse on sustainable urban development, refining it over the years thanks to the urban initiatives promoted through the Cohesion Policy, other specific urban-oriented actions and the Urban Agenda for the EU. In the 2014-2020 period, ESIF supports around 1,000 integrated sustainable urban development strategies distributed across Europe, and this support will be reinforced in the upcoming programming period.

From the discussions it emerged that many cities across Europe are working with the research community as co-creators in the design and implementation of their city strategies or regarding specific projects, constantly innovating new forms of interaction between science and policy-making. 

The added value of the science-policy nexus was clearly recognised at local level towards a more transparent and evidence-based policy-making process. In addition, it was claimed as significant for the harmonisation of territorial knowledge at EU level.

Also, it became clear that the picture is more complex than expected. We cannot simply talk about policymakers on one side and researchers on the other side; other stakeholders must also be taken into account.

Actors interact through a wide range of collaborative arrangements, going from dedicated city services (Amsterdam, Maribor) to a set of formal agreements (Bilbao, Reggio Emilia) as well as emergent forms of cooperation brought together by EU instruments (Brno).

Purposeful and supportive institutional frameworks are vital in order to make the science-policy nexus alive and effective.

In the discussions, participants referred to the science-policy nexus in terms of interactive design processes and collective learning practices.  Interaction and design require new skills and capabilities, including "out of the box" thinking. More investments in capacity building are essential to integrate a design-oriented collaborative mind-set in the daily routine of both city administrations and Universities.

Take away message

  • Science-policy integration is a powerful tool for change, and requires political leadership to make it possible.
  • It is a collective learning process. It takes time, it is an emergent social construction process that depends on the actors involved, and requires enabling environments for researchers and policymakers to learn how to work together.
  • There is a need for "boundary spanners", i.e. intermediaries (people and institutions) that have the skills and the mandate to link science organisations and city internal networks.


Additional information

The European Urban Initiative (EUI) offers new opportunities for streamlining the instruments available for urban development in the 2014-2020 period, providing a more coherent support for evidence-based action in cities and urban areas across Europe.

Francesco Amodeo, DG REGIO

In Maribor our integrated urban development strategy supported by EU Cohesion Policy provided the framework for developing the new city business model based on Circular Economy in an integrated way, involving research departments and external experts.

Igor Kos, WCYCLE Institute - Maribor

The scientific community can help in building new narratives and equilibrate political tensions and unbalances. Moreover researchers can work as facilitators bringing actors together, and shifting boundaries of thinking.

Anna Badyna, Oxford University

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