STS - conferences, IST2012

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Constructing Sustainable Cities
Roar Samuelsen

Last modified: 2012-03-20


This paper address the role of cities in promoting sustainable transitions by focusing on innovation related to climate change mitigation and adaptation measures for urban infrastructure. Cities function as integrated systems, consisting of many closely interlinked sectors of economic activity and complex types of infrastructure. A well-functioning infrastructure is decisive for cities to be both competitive and liveable places.

An ongoing “Cities of the Future-programme” (2008–2014) which encompass a wide range of innovation projects, aims to re-construct the 13 largest Norwegian cities as sustainable  cities by promoting clean technologies, smart grids and smart buildings. The vision is to achieve large-scale transformative changes at the system level of urban infrastructures in order to meet challenges related to current climate change and resource utilisation in Norway. Increased efficiency and improved practices may result both in specific sectors and across sectors. The paper will present a conceptual framework that can enable both theoretical and practical insights into this issue. The following research questions are pursued:

  • How are innovation processes organised and coordinated through transition governance and learning processes, and what are the results in terms of sustainability transition?
  • Can different urban and regional development trajectories be identified and what are the characteristics of these?
  • What are the implications of the embeddedness of the innovation projects in different urban and regional institutional regimes for transition efforts and results?

A synthesis of the IS and the MLP approaches will be used to identify and analyse different modes of organisation and coordination of the transition efforts. The results of the project will i) contribute to the development of the systems approaches as research tools for studying sustainability transitions; and ii) provide knowledge relevant for targeted intervention in constructing more sustainable cities and – in the longer run – enabling transitions to sustainability.

Submitted by:

Roar Samuelsen and Ove Langeland

NIBR Norwegian Institute for Urban and Regional Research