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INTERVIEW: Putting Cities at the Centre

Author

Giovanna Guiffrè & Valentina Malcotti

Jul 11, 2023

SPROUT empowers cities to face urban transformation and disruptive innovation in sustainable mobility through the co-creation of resilient mobility policies.

How do cities envision mobility in 10-20 years? What innovations are reshaping urban transportation for passengers and goods? What key policy recommendations should be included in future mobility planning? 


Project SPROUT (Sustainable Policy RespOnse to Urban mobility Transition) aimed at envisioning future mobility scenarios, developed an interactive toolbox for urban policymaking and issued recommendations to aid cities’ transition to sustainable mobility and handle disruptive innovations in the sector. 


SPROUT adopted scenario-building techniques, assessments of replication potentials, and policy compliance checks to make sense of the rapidly changing urban mobility environment influenced by societal challenges. 


Horizon Futures Watch asked the SPROUT project coordinator, Maria Teresa de la Cruz Eiriz (Zaragoza Logistics Center), to expand on SPROUT’s city-led, forward-looking approach and explain how the project used the lens of foresight to create an understanding of the current state of urban mobility and identify the main drivers of future change. 


What was the foresight component of your project?


One of SPROUT‘s objectives was to trace the parameters driving urban mobility transition and foresee their impacts. Urban mobility transition drivers were identified following the PESTEL approach (Social, Technological, Economic, Environmental, Political) to trend analysis. This activity, along with the exploration of the current state of mobility, provided the basis for the creation of “do-nothing” scenarios (absence of specific mobility policy interventions) for the SPROUT pilot cities in the 2030-time horizon. Local stakeholders were invited to join workshops (Local Innovation Forums) to envision city-specific narratives in the event of no policymaking actions to manage local urban mobility.


What kind of stakeholders/community did you engage with? Is your approach to science-policycitizens dialogue replicable at EU levels and for different policy fields?


SPROUT set up a community of cities organized in three layers (pilot, validation and associated cities), collaborating together towards more sustainable and innovative policymaking on urban mobility. On top of the scenario-building activities, SPROUT analysed the implementation of ten different mobility solutions (for freight and passengers) in 15 cities.


Stakeholders were identified jointly with the cities considering the specific mobility solution based on the question: ‘Who affects or is affected by the urban mobility transition’? Generally speaking, the main stakeholder groups were public administration, conventional public transport operators and “new mobility” providers, technology companies, energy providers, logistics operators, users, residents, and local businesses.


Such city-led approaches can be successful if awareness and engagement among stakeholders is high. Lately, participatory techniques and co-creation have become buzzwords, but results depend very much on the Credits: Freepic methodology applied. Science-policy-citizens dialogue must be very well structured and expertly led to ensure inclusivity, avoid bias and make the most of co-creation activities.


What key results have you obtained?


The lack of policy-mediated approaches in the so-called ‘no intervention’ urban mobility scenarios helped convey the message that transition in urban mobility is essential to embrace the change towards sustainable transport. But the ‘how’ mattered the most to SPROUT. The concept of city-led innovation empowered city leaders and decision-makers to develop policies able to steer the introduction of innovative solutions and accompany these solutions for an impactful (and more legitimate) implementation. Based on this approach, we have developed an urban policy model to enhance evidence-based local policymaking and capacitybuilding tools and recommendations to support cities in urban policy design and Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMPs).


What key elements from your project do you think could improve science-policy-stakeholders dialogue in practice?


The development of local communities and their involvement in the planning process is an important success factor both to identify the appropriate policy and for it to be widely accepted by all local city stakeholders. SPROUT’s outcomes highlighted the need for creating Open Innovation Communities as innovative crowdsourcing models promoting knowledge generation, debate, and consensus building among local and EU-level stakeholders.


If things go well, how would you expect urban and mobility policy to develop in the next 20 years and what would be the signs of success?


Uncertainty lingers. The post-COVID-19 mobility landscape is bound to depend greatly on the evolution of the energy market in Europe and how it impacts the political agenda. Data-driven and flexible mobility policies are the way forward to achieve sustainability goals and accommodate the market of new mobility solutions. Ideally, cities should have a co-created vision for the future and build a stable roadmap towards it; one that doesn’t change every few years due to its dependency on politics!


This is an article from the Horizon Future Watch Newsletter (Issue 2, July 2023), presented by Foresight on Demand

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