Cities as complex innovation systems: governance for mitigation and adaptation

Urban areas are of increasing relevance when it comes to sustainability for several reasons. First, about half of the world’s population now lives in cities (increasing to 60% by 2030). Second, cities are nowadays responsible for levels of resource consumption and waste generation (of all kinds) that are higher beyond their share on world population. Third, cities are more vulnerable to disruptive events that can lead to restrictions on the provision of resources and to changes on the environment caused by climate change. And fourth, because they concentrate key resources (political, social, cultural…) cities are seen as strategic scenarios where to experiment and develop solutions to mitigate and adapt to the prevailing sustainability challenges driven by the major social and environmental transformations.
In this work we look at the governance of urban agglomerations as the governance of complex innovation systems where human activities, in their different dimensions, can be shaped in order to transform societies towards sustainable development. The innovation system and sustainability transitions approach identifies the agents and its connexions in different contexts such as territories, sectors or technologies allowing an improved understanding on how innovation towards sustainability transitions function and how can it be achieved. This literature can, by adopting a multilevel systemic approach to the study of urban areas, provide an innovative approach to understand urbanization processes of growth and conditions for the transition to a more sustainable future.
For this we discuss the opportunity of considering urban areas as complex and interrelated innovation systems. In this way, their social, economic, political, cultural, physical and environmental dimensions can be analysed and its performance studied in order to achieve far-reaching changes along different dimensions (technological, material, organisational, institutional, political economic and socio-cultural) that would promote sustainability.
We therefore assume that: i) there exist limits to economic growth as it is understood in mainstream politics and mainstream economics; ii) an important part of the scientific community, together with other social actors, agree on demanding big changes on development strategies in order to reconfigure our societies according to sustainability; iii) to achieve sustainability, far-reaching changes along different dimensions (technological, material, organisational, institutional, political economic and socio-cultural) have to occur; iv) governance of urban areas can be conceived as complex and interrelated systems where their social, economic, political, cultural, physical and environmental dimensions can be analysed as innovation systems the performance of which can be analysed.
By exploring the opportunities that the innovation systems and sustainability transitions field of research can bring to the study of urbanization and sustainability, we provide an innovative approach to understand urbanization processes of growth and conditions for the transition to a more sustainable future. In this line of research we want to explore the opportunities that the sustainability transitions field of research can bring to the study of urbanization and sustainability. If a multidimensional perspective is needed, capable of addressing the complex interactions in space and time among the diverse dimensions of urbanization, we believe that this can be brought about by the conceptions and tools inherent in the innovation systems and sustainability transitions literature.


Something wrong with this information? Report errors here.