Globally and Locally-sustainable Food-Water-Energy Innovation in Urban Living Labs

Over the past decade we have witnessed a remarkable turn from the global to the local scale in sustainable development. There has been an explosion of sustainable urban development initiatives focussing on local, circular and renewable production of food, energy, and water. This is understandable as the local, urban scale is ultimately the place where innovative solutions need to be developed and implemented, and recently there has also been much progress in methodologies to develop locally-robust solutions, notably transdisciplinary action-research in Urban Living Labs.

Yet, in the end there is no local sustainability without global sustainability and vice versa. So how do these local innovations translate to higher levels, including the global? And how do global flows impact on local performance? What is needed is to extend the current Urban Living Lab methodologies for developing local solutions for the food-water-energy nexus (FWE) to include local-global interactions. The aim of this methodological extension is to produce sustainable innovations that are not only robust at the local, urban scale but also at the global level.

This project will develop such an extended Urban Living Lab methodology through a combination of local, transdisciplinary Living Lab experiments on innovative FWE solutions and assessment of their local-global interactions using advanced analytical methods, including integrated modelling. For this purpose, Urban Living Lab experiments will be conducted across the globe, in cities both in the Global South and the Global North, thus representing a wide range of environmental, social and economic urban conditions.

The underlying philosophy of investing in further methodological development of Urban Living Labs is that urban resilience and sustainability ultimately depend on the adaptive capacity of the city. Multi-actor experimentation and joint learning in Urban Living Labs can provide the innovative responses a city needs to maintain and improve quality of life in a changing environment.

Based on the approach described above, the main deliverables of the GLOCULL project will be:

  • An Urban Living Lab methodology for globally and locally-sustainable Food-Water-Energy innovations, including novel assessment tools for local-global interactions.
  • Added value to local FWE innovations through participatory, integrated assessment of both local and global sustainability in Urban Living Lab FWE experiments.
  • New scientific insights into the potential for innovative, locally and globally sustainable solutions for challenges in the urban FWE-nexus, and how their transferability is determined by generic as well as location-specific factors.

The GLOCULL consortium is well-positioned for this project by including reputed research partners with complementary knowledge and expertise, city partners committed to implementation of FWE innovation experiments, private sector partners developing and implementing such innovations and organisations representing stakeholder perspectives. The consortium brings together a wealth of knowledge and expertise on living labs and other transdisciplinary approaches in sustainable urban development, as well as extensive research experience in governance and management of food, water and energy issues from the local to the global level, including multi-level interactions. Concrete Urban Living Lab FWE innovation experiments are already identified in each of the eight participating countries.

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