Across Europe citizens are being put centre stage in efforts to move towards a more sustainable and liveable built environment. How are EU-funded projects embracing this citizen engagement as they innovate?
To answer this as fully as possible, a unique conference – BY&FORCITIZENS – took place in late September in Valladolid, Spain, co-organised by 5 major European urban renovation projects –R2CITIES , CITYFIED, MYSMARTLIFE, REMOURBAN and URBANGREENUP.
At the conference, over 240 experts examined strategies currently being developed with citizens as part of these projects to promote energy efficiency, electric mobility, circular economy and ICT solutions for the cities of the future. BY&FORCITIZENS offered a shared platform for projects, experts and other key societal players to learn from each other and share valuable, far-reaching insights.
"Often the technology to make our cities smarter is out there. But we need to involve and engage with citizens if our urban environment is to be fully transformed. This green revolution won't take place unless we communicate with citizens in a clear and transparent way and enable them to co-design their cities' futures. This means citizen engagement and empowerment – something pivotal to this conference," said Elisabeth Schmid, European project manager at youris.com, who took part in the panel session on "citizen-centric models for transforming urban areas".
Organised by CARTIF Foundation –coordinating body of the five projects – along with the Institute for Business Competitiveness from the Junta de Castilla y León, and the Valladolid City Council, the event featured keynote speeches on human-centric city transformation, new city eco-systems, connected and cyber-secure cities, innovative financial models, re-naturing of cities to increase resilience towards climate transition. In-depth themes based on the projects' experiences were put under the spotlight during a series of smart sessions. Input providers from REMOUBAN included CARTIF, the Municipality of Valladolid, GMV, IBERDROLA, DEMIR, youris.com, Nottingham City Homes, Veolia.
"What is significant about this conference is its line-up of so many urban regeneration experts from different disciplines and countries all showing how they are engaging with people through different initiatives. For the REMOURBAN project, the event served as an ideal setting for one of its final conferences, offering greater visibility and impact to what would have otherwise been achieved,’ stated Miguel García-Fuentes, BY&FORCITIZENS programme director and REMOURBAN coordinator.
Overseeing the conference at Valladolid were Oscar Puente, the city's mayor, Georg Houben, from the EU Directorate General for Energy, and Teresa Ribera, Spain's Minister for Ecology Transition.
The venue, Valladolid, is a pioneering city for urban regeneration and its inhabitants aren't new to the concept. Valladolid is one of the most active cities in Spain for EU-funded urban innovation projects. They have turned the city into a "Lighthouse", a beacon of good practices. A Street Programme was organized to involve citizens in parallel with the conference through different activities, among them a photography and video competition on social networks and the procession of electric vehicles in downtown Valladolid. Delegates themselves were able to get a real feel of the works undertaken by the European projects during four technical visits, among them Valladolid's Fasa district, which is one of REMOURBAN's demonstration sites, and the new e-mobility solutions with the new city fleet of electrical vehicles and buses connected to the smart city platform to monitor their consumption .