Nice to meet you, City: UNIC brings engaged research to eight European cities

Cities have a central role in solving societal challenges. Increasingly, cities are working collaboratively with their partners in this process. Eight cities partner with eight universities in the European University of Post-Industrial Cities UNIC. UNIC works on the questions faced by cities that have experienced a significant structural change, and who consider their superdiverse people as a key asset.
Written by Dr. Sari Hirvonen-Kantola

What kind of needs for knowledge are there? 

Cities measure phenomena that are important to them. They are pleased when reaching or exceeding their developmental goals, and they look for answers when goals are not met. Cities share many interests, but they can also measure things that are meaningful only to them. UNIC seeks to answer the shared and individual questions that our post-industrial cities face.  

The UNIC cities have faced significant structural changes. These so-called post-industrial cities have shifted, or are shifting, from industrial to service economies. This shift can be related to challenges brought on by demographic changes, for example a decrease in population growth. Transformation can also bring new possibilities and change the city’s role in its ecosystem.  


Engaged research has an impact on how cities are developed 

Cities’ increased opportunities hang on how well a city embraces its role as a changemaker. Nowadays, cities are becoming more and more proactive: they are visionaries, strategists, practitioners, and evaluators. In this new paradigm cities don’t just appear, they are made.  

In this, cities are analysed and developed based on multiple voices and versatile understanding, and together with stakeholders. Knowledge management becomes a key approach. 

In fall 2021 UNIC launched a project to engage citizens as well as public and private sector actors to research and innovate together with universities. In this H2020 project, The European University of Post-Industrial Cities: Towards a collaborative approach and structure for engaged research (UNIC4ER), UNIC will create a joint strategy, structure, platform, and measures of success for engaged research.  

Engaged research is a good strategy for increasing the impact of research. Systematic knowledge production isn’t just done for society, but instead, with the society and within the society. In the UNIC4ER project universities and cities co-create frameworks and infrastructure for engaged research. Research topics can include for instance questions related to the vitality of our cities, the health of our citizens or the development of our public services, all topics that require a multidisciplinary approach.  

With UNIC4ER, UNIC will create a truly European infrastructure for the research of the questions that post-industrial cities face.   

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