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New urban sustainability network

23 January 2013

Urban Arena is the name of a new network of Lund University researchers working on sustainable urban development. The aim is to make contacts both within and outside the University.

According to Urban Arena, Lund University has Sweden’s broadest and most multi-disciplinary research on sustainable urban development. The new network aims to gather, reinforce and disseminate this research.

“We want to organise a couple of events each year aimed at municipalities, county councils, businesses and other stakeholders. It is important to listen to the needs of society so that the research we carry out can come to good use!” says Professor Lena Neij at the International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics. She is the coordinator of the new network, which is the equivalent of existing interdisciplinary networks in other fields at Lund University such as Havsportalen (the Sea Portal) and Klimatinitiativet (the Climate Initiative).

Getting inspiration for new research projects is an important function of Urban Arena. Bringing together researchers with different skills but shared interests is another, and becoming a useful point of entry for external parties is a third, according to Lena Neij:

“Lund University is big, and many departments and divisions have presentation texts aimed only at other researchers. For people outside academia, the University is a labyrinth which can be difficult to navigate without help.”

Urban Arena has received a three-year grant from the university management to develop its work. It started in September with a meeting just for Lund University researchers, followed by an ideas workshop where the spring’s activities were planned. In November, a full-day workshop was held for both Lund researchers and external participants.

Senior lecturer in Architecture Catharina Sternudd is a member of the steering committee for Urban Arena. She explained at the workshop how she thinks researchers can contribute to the development of sustainable cities. Gaining greater knowledge of what needs to be done is probably not the primary objective, in her view.

“However, the research can help to provide arguments and explain how important and urgent different measures are. Creating scenarios, presenting examples and taking an active part in the public debate are also important tasks for the researchers”, she said.

Today, the majority of the world’s population live in urban areas, from small towns to huge metropolises like Tokyo or Mexico City. Making cities more environmentally friendly is therefore crucial to reduce the threat of climate change and other environmental risks.

“Interest in research on sustainable cities has increased sharply in recent years. We have a real opportunity to make a difference”, emphasises Lena Neij. She thinks that the county of Skåne and the Öresund region are well ahead in this area.

“I have worked both nationally and internationally, but it is at local level that I have encountered the strongest motivation and enthusiasm”, she says.

Text: Ingela Björck

 More information: www.urban.lu.se