Impressions of the day
Vitality in City and Region
Science Day, 16 June 2014
WTC - Beurs, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Wim Hafkamp, chair and VerDuS director, welcomes everybody in 'a different Rotterdam' (orange because of the soccer world championship), especially the international guests. He explains that today the results of three VerDuS programmes in eight parallel sessions are central:
  • Knowledge for Strong Cities
  • Sustainable Accessibility of the Randstad
  • Urban Regions in the Delta

Key lecture Philip McCann: 'Geography is where the action is!'
Philip McCann tells the audience about issues that are urgent in thinking about development en growth in cities and urban regions. 'Twenty five years ago when I went studying geography my friends all asked why I didn't go into finance. Geography was so boring! But see how this has changed: geography is where the action is now!' Cities matter on a wider economic scale, although things are more complicated and differentiated than everybody thinks. One of the major questions for now is: How to think on economic growth in the context of population decline? See the presentation of McCann.

Comments by Alan Murie and Pieter Hooimeijer
After McCann's presentation Alan Murie ans Pieter Hooimeijer commented. One of the issues was lack of relevant data to support evidence based policy. Murie: 'We should have these data, because otherwise policymakers tend to trust their own gut feeling too much.' Another issue is the question where politics fits in. McCann: 'Policy issues are central. Interaction with stakeholders is essential. We can also use qualitative data next to quantitative.' Pieter Hooimeijer addressed the mechanism 'winner takes all' and the question why some cities do better than others.

Thematic sessions
In two rounds of thematic sessions the following questions were central:
  • What have we learned and how is this knowledge useful to us?
  • What knowledge is still missing and what & who is needed to produce this knowledge?

The thematic sessions were:
A. Soft location factors, hard agglomeration effects (see impressions and presentations)
B. Urban regions as working space (see impressions and presentations)
C. Governance issues (see impressions and presentations)
D. The choices people make (see impressions and presentations)
E. Transit Oriented Development (see impressions and presentations)
F. Optimization of transport networks (see impressions and presentations)
G. Sustainable Mobility (see impressions and presentations)
H. Area Development 2.0 (see impressions and presentations)

Plenary closing with the 'voices from the future'
Three young researchers - dr. Christa Hubers (Delft University of Technology), Peter Pelzer MSc (Utrecht University) en dr. Wendy Tan (University of Groningen) - shared their observations and recommendations with the international scientific community. They had four major points:
  1. Better cities for whom? (social justice? equity? exclusion?)
  2. What about disruptive change and uncertainty? (resilience)
  3. Better data? How should we study these? (
  4. How to have sustainable collaboration (academic - practitioner / academic - academic)

Participants in the room reacted positive to these observations; these are important themes, which sometimes seem to be missing now.Next there were some propositions from the sessions on which the participants debated:
  1. Which smart urban structures serve (SURF!) people best, and why, and how do we get there? (Open the black box!)
  2. From sustainable mobility to future mobility: a need to bring into focus: uncertainty, recognize context and confront complexity. How do we view mobility through an interdisciplinary lens?
  3. The transition towards more flexible arrangements combining work, living and leisure, might undermine the classical assumptions of agglomeration theory. We need to reconceptualize agglomeration effects and reconsider the role of proximity and of commuting.
  4. We have to develop a new generation of transport models (including multimodal transport, behavioural aspects, digital accessibility, location based service, maintenance).
  5. It has not been proven that TOD contributes to the quality of life! Show the potential benefits and impacts of the ‘dutch style’ of TOD and bring the discussion to a broader public and reach out to other stakeholders.
  6. Put in practice that theories are working. (Start with practice, try with pilots and action research and collaborate interdisciplinary).
  7. Civic initiatives (burgerinitatieven) exclude, have external effects and are not fully comprehensive.
  8. Building legitimacy is a crucial condition for smart urban regions of the future and is will vary per region.
Wim Hafkamp concluded this day with some words on SURF (Smart Urban Regions of the Future), the next programme that hopefully will start in a few months, when the Board decides positively on this.

Afterwards there were drinks and dinner.