I EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
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I EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Since the Lisbon European Union Spring Council of 2000 set a strategic goal for the European Union to become the most dynamic and competitive knowledge based economy in the world by 2010 there has been significant research, policies and projects on how to stimulate the knowledge economy and importantly the importance of Universities within Triplex Helix Structures. Cities are widely recognised as playing a fundamental role in the promotion of the knowledge economy but most research and policy has focussed on large cities with World- class educational and research institutes and advanced clusters of economic activity. There are clear and significant gaps in the knowledge of how smaller sized cities, with different levels and types of knowledge institutions and different levels of economic activity can compete within the Knowledge Economy. Yet such cities are recognised within European Union policy as playing a vital role in the implementation of the Lisbon agenda. The URBACT II Thematic Network RUnUP addresses in a uniquely different way the fundamental issues of how universities should engage with their local communities with a particular focus on medium-sized cities; the role of local authorities and municipalities and the importance of triple helix structures for supporting economic development and encouraging entrepreneurship. The partners within the RUnUP network cover cities with populations between 50,000 and 200,000 inhabitants, with either; no university, an underperforming university or a world class university and education system. In each case the fundamental reason for their participation in RUnUP is consistent, namely to enhance the role of the university within the city and its direct and indirect benefits to local economic development. This baseline report is the result of 6-months work during the development phase of the network in which the state of art has been produced highlighting the importance of the knowledge economy, the role of universities and research centres and the changing remit of municipalities and local authorities in triple helix structures. The partner profiles are the result of significant work and communication between the lead partner, lead expert and network partners. Each has been produced with information from each partner and edited following the visit of the lead expert to each city during the development phase. As a result of this work it is evident that the RUnUP network has a distinctive approach, which has and will continue to enable: • The understanding of the concrete needs of each partner city in relation to its existing economic base and the ‘absorptive capacity’ of its firms, allowing us to map out strategies for the partner cities each with different economic starting positions. • The alignment of university activity to economic transformation. Recognising that the traditional linear model of seeing universities as producers of knowledge from research and conversion into technology transfer and developing spin-outs is extremely limited. Universities can undertake much wider roles in local economies many of which are more aligned to the focus of small and medium-sized cities. The activities of RUnUP will extend and highlight the range of alternatives regarding the role of Universities in such environments. • A focus on the practical role that local authorities can play in Small and Medium- Sized Cities as the vital interface between the needs of economic actors and the knowledge base. • An approach for studying good practice both within and outside the RUnUP partners which will allow the network to provide practical guidelines for city managers while at the same time producing general policy recommendations to strengthen a vital component of the Lisbon Strategy. Moving forward into the implementation phase at a local level it is recommended that the partners in the RUnUP network need to enhance their individual and organisational knowledge of their local and regional knowledge based institutions. Only by understanding the structures, key contacts, key research and educational themes and existing approaches of universities to working with their local economy can they support the development of triple-helix structures and the alignment of university activity to local economic development priorities. In parallel with this the partners as a prerequisite to the design of new schemes and approaches for university–business interaction need to consider defining their sector priorities and the state of economic transformation. In addition It is recommended that the partners with the inclusion of URBACT Local Support Group members need to be taken to see models of best practice highlighting the new approaches of particular European Universities to university-business interaction e.g. University of Twente, in the medium-sized city of Enschede with regard to Spin-Outs. This should be further supported by the delivery of Run-UP workshops and seminars that can highlight wider European best practice resulting in the development of a series of themed case books supporting capitalisation at the network and programme level. The RUnUP network has a unique opportunity to explore the role of universities in medium- sized cities and to develop local actions in 9 cities from 9 member states across the European Union bringing together triple-helix actors in support of economic and urban development. The results of the network in its implementation phase will provide a clear policy approach for municipalities and local authorities while providing a significant influence to European Policy in support of urban and regional development and its integration with education and research.