Deconstructing Economic, Ecologic and Social Urban Discourses for Innovation Policies

22-06-2016 | Publication

Worldwide, cities are called upon to help achieve a wide variety of policy goals, varying from economic growth, increased energy efficiency and the mitigation of global warming, to improving the liveability of urban neighbourhoods and the active participation of the population in urban planning. In particular, cities are supposed to help achieve necessary innovations in these domains. Both local governments (municipalities) and regional alliances of local governments (in metropolitan areas) are thought to have a thorough insight into relevant local and regional circumstances, are supposed to be able to act relatively quickly and decisively, and are thought to be able experimenters.

This paper acknowledges that a growing number of (larger) cities present ambitious policy plans and take effective action in the (combined) fields of economic growth, the mitigation of climate change, and improving liveability and sociale inclusion in urban neighhourhoods. However, it also acknowledges that there are limits to the capacities of cities to help achieve innovations, think of cities’ limited abilities to change established large-scale systems in the field of energy production.

The following central question is addressed: Under which conditions are (cooperating) cities able to plan and act quickly and decisively, learn from local experiments, and share insights across national borders and sectoral domains? This question is approached by performing a discourse analysis of the relevant scholarly literature and policies and plans regarding the roles of cities in innovation processes in the combined fields introduced above.

The paper takes the current debate in the Netherlands as a starting point, considering it in the context of related debates in the international arena.