JPI Urban Europe is an intergovernmental and strategic partnership of countries that addresses the challenge of sustainable urban development through coordinated research and innovation. JPI Urban Europe is currently preparing its upcoming programme, a European Partnership with the European Commission under the Horizon Europe Framework programme called Driving Urban Transitions (DUT). Co-creative and experimental approaches to address urban challenges and to contribute to urban transitions have been an elementary part of the programme since the beginning.
In the preparation phase of Driving Urban Transitions, the Management Board of JPI Urban Europe conducted a series of workshops, sessions and events with urban actors such as local public administrations, researchers, and civil society organisations, etc. to find out how experimental approaches can contribute to urban transformation. This article will summarise some of the reflections from this process.
How can urban living labs drive transitions from the perspective of transnational programming?
Over the last few years, experimental methods to co-create urban futures and alternatives to the status quo have gained a lot of traction, primarily in Europe but also beyond. Urban development is such a complex, wicked issue that if the challenges and crises of our time are to be addressed, new approaches that combine stakeholder knowledge, experience, and interests are key to enabling urban transformations.
During the recent decade, about half of the over 100 projects funded by the JPI Urban Europe applied experimental co-creative methods, mainly in the form of urban living labs. We discussed the approaches and potential to do things differently with experimental methods with urban actors around the world: from Europe to Beijing, Rio de Janeiro and Florianopolis in Brazil, and Durban in South Africa. On a conceptual level, we learned a lot about how urban living labs and experimental models can lead to more sustainable cities, more economic opportunities and a better quality of life for city-dwellers.