2 February 2010

Urban Futures Unveils at the Forum for Environmental Research

It is time for this year's Forum conference on Environmental Research, February 9-10. This year's theme is the metropolis. Behind the event is Mistra, the Delegation for Sustainable Cities, The National Environmental Protection Agency and Formas. Mistra's newly established learning center, Urban Futures, is one of the tangible examples presented during the conference days.

This is the third consecutive year Forum for Environmental Research is presenting. This year the theme is The City—a topic that has moved up on the agenda of politicians, construction companies, municipalities and research institutions around the globe.

“For Mistra the Forum for Environmental Research is an important initiative engendering a dialogue on current and topical subjects between researchers and practitioners. This is in order for the research findings to really be useful. This year's theme The City is both current and pressing—not only because Mistra recently launched a major Urban Futures program in sustainable urban development," says Anna-Karin Engvall, director of communications at Mistra, who has been part of arranging all three Forum for Environmental Research conferences.

The solutions and interaction between different actors needed to create sustainable cities will be discussed during February 9th and 10th. The city or urban center is an arena for addressing the problems of dealing with climate hazard and creating quality of life. At the same time urban development is a complex activity in which industry, government, scientists and citizens must work together in order accomplish the most desirable results.

The hope is therefore that the Forum for Environmental Research 2010 will be a meeting place for discourse on the future sustainable city. More than eighty of Sweden’s leading researchers and practitioners are participating, talking about urban projects based on innovation. Cooperation and holistic, integrated solutions across borders are essential.

“Forum for Environmental Research is about how we create the conditions for a dynamic urban development by including a variety of perspectives. The conference will bridge barriers between researchers and practitioners. There is a general need to create new meeting venues and more effectively implement new research findings into practice," says Katarina Schylberg at the Delegation for Sustainable Cities.

Packed Program
The first day State Secretary Elizabeth Falemo from the Department of the Environment presents the Government's approach to urban development.
Thomas Elmqvist of Stockholm Resilience Centre talks about the unsustainable city. His lectures are complemented by Jerker Söderliind from KTH, The Royal Institute of Technology, who will talk about the obstacles for sustainability in contrast to the unsustainable framework.

"How Do We Create a City That Is Open to Everyone?" is the title of Bridget Notlöf’s lecture. She comes from the Association Livstycket (The Bodice) in Tensta, an association working to integrate immigrants and refugees into Swedish society. She has a vast and practical experience working toward building a society that is accessible to all. She started Livstycket in 1992 and is to this day working to improve the situation of immigrants and refugees in Sweden, particularly women, by offering them training and creative activities.

The morning concludes with a few words from Christer Larsson, who is responsible for the city planning administration in Malmö. He talks about the driving forces behind urban development and uses example from his own hometown.

“A fundamental idea behind the conference is that urban development is more than urban buildings and there is a need to bring in a diversity of perspectives if we are to understand the forces speeding up or slowing down urban development. An important goal with the conference is to highlight how research can contribute to increased knowledge and improvements in practice,” says Katarina Schylberg.

In the afternoon, the conference is devoted to visions and decisions and before the evening’s workshops a panel of experts will discuss the importance of having a visionary outlook as measured against where they currently are. The National Housing Board, municipalities and the Nature Conservation Society will participate in the panel along with Trivector, Skanska and the Global Utmaning (Global Challenge).

More Practice
Day two is aimed at a more practical angle. Peter Örn from the Delegation for Sustainable Cities talks about future models of urban development and shows some good examples. He does this together with representatives of two projects supported by the Delegation; Ann-Sofi Tapani at AB Bostaden (The Dwelling) in Umeå and Lisa Enarsson from the Environment administration in Stockholm.
Björn Malbert, professor at Chalmers University in Gothenburg, presents Mistra’s newly launched program Urban Futures. It will develop into a knowledge center for research that is both interdisciplinary and international.

Forum for Environmental Research 2010 concludes with an hour of summing up the major points of the conference, conducted by Lars Berggrund from the Swedish Rail Administration who also moderates the whole event.

Mistra Mistra