Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: Sch of Social and Political Science


European cities face complex challenges that demand smart solutions. This project puts urban intermediaries, those people who can bring people and resources together in innovative ways, at the heart of smart urban development and sets out to understand how they create social innovation. We will carry out fieldwork in four European cities (Birmingham, Copenhagen, Glasgow and Amsterdam) where we will develop collaborative working groups, or 'living labs', which will be sources of data as well as sites for learning across projects, fields of practice, cities and countries. In sum, we will advance knowledge of how intermediaries innovate and generate smart urban development, by creating opportunities for collaborative research, dialogue and learning across Europe.

Planned Impact

This project brings impact and value to potential user communities through its commitment to co-creation and its research design. Our diverse co-operation partners (18 organisations and institutions, 10 in the UK) and local and transnational living labs will ensure that the project is anchored in, and relevant to, user communities beyond academia. Our research questions and approach to understanding the role of intermediaries in social innovation and smart urban development are inherently collaborative and set out to be of value to potential user communities.

In particular, the project will seek to generate impact and value for two broad user communities, supporting each in understanding, contributing to and advancing smart urban development and social innovation:

* Urban governance: those institutions, organisations and individuals involved in determining the allocation and use of public resources within the urban environment, including local, city and regional governments, partnership bodies and policy interventions and initiatives, elected representatives, policy makers and practitioners.

* Civil society: those involved in fostering local, urban and transnational action and activity within and between communities, including, community and voluntary organisations, social movements and active citizens.

Reflecting the substantive focus of this project, a crucial impact will be on fostering new connections, collaboration and co-creation between, as well as within, user communities. Living labs provide a means for doing this site-specifically, within urban neighbourhoods and cities, and beyond, providing a platform for trans-disciplinary and trans-national European learning. An impact legacy for these user communities will be secured through the activities of the European Insights programme and a range of accessible, relevant tools for user communities and wider publication and dissemination.

The project anticipates three forms of impact:

* Strategic impact: The project will offer insight into the work, interactions and embedding of urban intermediaries, including enablers and barriers, thus providing new thinking for the design of urban governance supportive of intermediaries and conducive to social innovation and problem-solving;

* Applied impact: The project will redefine and enrich the roles of intermediaries in urban development by enabling participants to develop, test and learn from new approaches, providing evidence to action. Capacity building and skill development will be crucial, and the project will entail training of post-doctoral researchers and practitioner researchers in the living labs in action research and reflexive practice;

* Innovation impact: Creative collaboration between researchers, intermediaries and co-operation partners via living labs (L3+TL2) will foster policy and practice innovation in smart urban development.

Impact and the potential market for the project results are anticipated at three spatial scales:

* Local: Our research and each living lab are anchored in urban neighbourhoods within each case study city, ensuring that our research is embedded, connected and able to generate impact at the local level;

* Urban: Our research focuses on the links and collaborations fostered by intermediaries between different people, communities and institutions of urban governance, ensuring that our research is situated and relevant and able to generate impact at the urban level;

* Transnational: Our research brings together a delegation of co-operation partners, local living labs for each city and intermediaries themselves, providing a platform for trans-national European dialogue, learning, and impact.

Please see further information in the Pathway to Impact document (attached).


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