Mayor Van Bijsterveldt: ‘With more knowledge at our disposal, we can make faster progress’

The universities of Leiden, Rotterdam and Delft are combining their knowledge and making it available to Zuid-Holland, with the message – ‘Dear members of local government and policymakers, we’re at your disposal!’ According to the Mayor of Delft Marja van Bijsterveldt, the message has not fallen on deaf ears. ‘We’re already working closely with TU Delft to tackle the social challenges facing our city. We now have even more knowledge we can use.’

An alliance that can make a real difference. That's how Van Bijsterveldt sees the new strategy and even deeper partnership between Leiden University, TU Delft and Erasmus University Rotterdam. “The fact that our knowledge institutions are coming together and combining forces is a positive move, in my view. Especially so, if they are willing to apply their knowledge to help resolve social problems in the region. It means that the knowledge we have available is no longer something remote, but very much in the here and now. The universities deliver talented engineers and graduates. Thanks to this new LDE strategy, those talented engineers and graduates will come with the added bonus of social engagement.”

Several dimensions

Alliances between local government and knowledge institutions are nothing new. The municipality of Delft has been collaborating closely with TU Delft for several years. As in other municipalities, civil servants also meet up with scientists and students in Delft in order to work together to find solutions to challenges in society. So what does the new LDE strategy add to this? Van Bijsterveldt: “This strategy adds several new dimensions. TU Delft is great at identifying technological solutions. But not every challenge calls for a technological solution or a technological solution alone. The LDE strategy makes it possible to approach challenges in society from a multidisciplinary perspective. We have more knowledge at our disposal – and can make faster progress.”

Van Bijsterveldt


Just like the knowledge institutions, local government authorities are also working in concert, in various regional alliances, ranging from the Rotterdam-The Hague Metropolitan Area (MRDH) to the Economic Board of Zuid-Holland (EBZ). Van Bijsterveldt also envisages opportunities to apply the LDE strategy for the wider region. “We have some far-reaching developments ahead of us, especially in such areas as sustainability. These developments are not confined to individual municipalities. Work is already underway on a regional heating network, from Rotterdam to Leiden. This is something we are developing together. The knowledge we have available can also be used in these regional projects that transcend individual cities. Not only to ensure we achieve the desired result in terms of technology, but also to enhance social engagement and boost public support.”

Three times better

In citing the issue of sustainability, Van Bijsterveldt is highlighting one of the four key themes around which the universities intend to combine forces. The other themes are: healthy society, digital society and inclusive society. “By choosing these themes, the universities are already demonstrating their social engagement,” states Van Bijsterveldt with some satisfaction, “because these are the themes that matter in the major economic and social transitions currently underway. How will we tackle changes to the climate, the digitisation of society, energy issues, healthcare, how can we make the economy more sustainable? And, most importantly: how can we ensure that different groups of people in society can all benefit and that we do not create division? We have a lot to gain from working closely together in these areas. I am convinced that it will be of benefit for society and for this region."

"It’s also advantageous for the knowledge institutions themselves, because they can offer the city or region as a lecture room or living lab, and tailor their programmes to meet the new demand for knowledge. Public organisations will also benefit because, backed up by scientific research, they will be able to develop more targeted and effective policies and successfully involve stakeholders. The knowledge institutions will help to shape the themes by setting up LDE knowledge centres. We are already taking full advantage of the expertise at the LDE Centre for Sustainability in order to engage in pioneering participation and of the LDE's Honours Programme to help create a happier city. The early results make me even more convinced that we are entering into an alliance that can really make a difference.”


An alliance that can really make a difference – so what is needed to make that difference? “When it comes to public administration, an open mind is essential. We need to have the confidence to apply knowledge in our strategy. Statements such as ‘We never do that’ or ‘We always do it that way’ deserve to be given a yellow card. We need inquisitive civil servants who are eager to learn and open to new ideas. Besides that, I also think it is important for us to learn more about each other. Experience has shown that the worlds of public administration and academia each have their own pace and ways of operating. We need to be aware of this, understanding and accepting each other. If we want to dance together, we need to know each other’s moves.”

ktNew demand for knowledge
In the last five years, it has been possible to do a degree programme in Clinical Technology. The programme is the result of the joint efforts of Leiden University, Erasmus University Rotterdam, the university medical centres in Leiden and Rotterdam, and TU Delft. Bringing together the medical world with that of technology, the programme was one of the answers to the question of what is needed to accelerate the development of the Medical Delta in this region. Van Bijsterveldt: “It's a prime example of how knowledge institutions can join forces and share our questions, needs and knowledge in order to address practical issues.”

Pioneering participation
The first steps towards achieving a disciplinary strategy have already been taken in Delft, with the transition of Delft-Zuid station into Campus station, the Netherlands’ first energy-neutral railway station. Based at the LDE Centre for Sustainability, students are working on a new way of involving engaged businesses, builders, residents and stakeholders in this. This is because the technological transition also involves participation. Van Bijsterveldt: “The transition is not only about bricks and mortar or about technology. It is also about usage, an area in which the people who use this station on a daily basis are the most expert. How can you put this expertise to good use? By forgetting about ‘designing for the people’, and ‘designing with the people’ instead. The process of public participation has yet to be completed, but the early results have been very promising. It's a completely new and exciting approach to public participation!”

de gelukkige stadThe Happy City
The LDE Honours programme The Happy City is a Bachelor's elective module for students at TU Delft and Leiden University in collaboration with TU Delft's Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering. In the Delft neighbourhood of Tanthof, students are researching such themes as: the ageing population, climate adaptation and urban densification. Van Bijsterveldt: “They are approaching this in quite an experimental way, using methods based on Positive Design – in other words: how do you incorporate happiness into design? This immediately brings about a new approach to the themes. The results are always inspiring, ingenious and surprising. They certainly make me very happy and I’m convinced that they can also make a contribution to improving the happiness of residents in the neighbourhood.”

More information:
Kennis- en Innovatielab De Gelukkige Stad

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