Published 2019-07-10

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Mistra Urban Futures is phased out and lives on

After eight years, Mistra Urban Futures is to be discontinued at year-end. The experience and knowledge that have emerged during the eight years of this research centre will, however, live on in Chalmers’ and the University of Gothenburg’s joint venture, the Gothenburg Centre for Sustainable Development (GMV).

Since it started in 2010, Mistra Urban Futures has been developed into a world-leading centre for sustainable urban development. This is an area in which the challenges are complex and relate to many different sectors, disciplines and cultures. Some of the challenges the centre has had to tackle are growing globalisation, accelerating urbanisation and the fact that cities have, accordingly, become ever more unmanageable. The solutions are often both complex and contradictory.

Mistra Urban Futures is now to be discontinued. Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg want, however, to preserve the experience and knowledge generated by the initiative. They are therefore planning a joint platform for collaboration. The aim is to help bring about sustainable development in the Global South — that is, countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Mistra Urban Futures has engaged in activities in many parts of the world, but in the new initiative it is their Gothenburg platform that is getting an extended life.

The new organisation is to start on 1 January 2020 and will be set up as part of Chalmers’ and the University of Gothenburg’s joint venture, the Gothenburg Centre for Sustainable Development (GMV).

‘GMV is the host for several centres and networks involved in various aspects of sustainable development. In cooperation with Mistra Urban Futures we’ll be stronger and can tackle more complex issues. Chalmers and the University of Gothenburg are now putting their joint efforts into the sustainable development of society in a global perspective, with increased focus on partnership with low- and middle-income countries. Mistra Urban Futures is a key part of this new initiative,’ says Jan Pettersson, GMV’s Director. 

What are you taking with you from Mistra Urban Futures into the new business?

‘There’s a lot to choose from. Mistra Urban Futures is a well-established centre that, over the past ten years, has made great progress where sustainable urban development is concerned. If I have to choose something, I’ll still choose the personal contacts that have been made in Sweden, and jointly with international partners. The knowledge and commitment of the staff and participants are central now we’re working further to find ways of resolving society’s complex issues.’

What bearing has Mistra Urban Futures had on this research area?

‘Mistra Urban Futures has made unique contributions to this research field. One very important component is the method of transdisciplinary co-production, whereby researchers and practitioners work together to jointly solve real, relevant problems. The methods are now well established, tried and tested, and can come to pay a major role in the work of identifying and implementing transformative changes in society.’

Other examples emphasised by Jan Petersson are the comparative studies under way among several international cities where different conditions prevail. This means that general conclusions can now be drawn about urban development and, by the same token, the scope for transferring valuable knowledge to many of the world’s cities can be increased.

What are the major research challenges that GMV will address?

‘Society faces big, complex challenges over the years ahead. We need to cooperate more and better than we’ve done to date — and not shrink from tackling new challenges and breaking down old systems that are barriers to contacts and development. If we can do that, we’ve got good prospects of changing society and creating a sustainable world.’

Text: Per Westergård