Urban Science for City Challenges – City Science Initiative

Urban Science for City Challenges – City Science Initiative

The City Science Initiative aims to strengthen how science and research can help address the urban challenges and to develop a structured approach to evidence-informed policy-making at cities’ level. 

Recently, the report reflecting on the CSI pilot phase has been finalized and published, by the name of ‘City Science for Urban Challenges’. The report of the mission board for climate-neutral and smart cities is accessible through this link.

“The introduction of a Climate City Mission is a radical new way of achieving climate neutrality – and of doing so faster, by 2030. The Mission aims to promote system innovation across the value chain of city investment, targeting multiple sectors such as governance, transport, energy, construction and recycling, with support from powerful digital technologies. As such, it requires a change in regulations, approaches and instruments combined with the willingness to go beyond existing schemes and habits. The Mission also demands a change of attitude towards practical aspects of implementation, but also as concerns people and organisations working together: citizens, local governments, central and regional governments, and European institutions. We expect citizens, city administrations and political leaders to show commitment, imagination and determination. We expect you to implement this Mission with the same determination as the Americans did with their Moonshot. The climate minded transformation of cities goes far beyond the idea of the Man on the Moon. This is The Mission of our times!” (Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, Chair of the Mission Board for Climate Neutral and Smart Cities)

Emerging urban food governance: the case of London

Emerging urban food governance: the case of London

Food policy has not usually represented a mainstream domain for urban planning. However, as Professor Kevin Morgan argued now ten years ago, this “puzzling omission” is not justifiable anymore given the multifunctional character of the food system with his effects on different policy sectors and the now recognized belief that it cannot be automatically relegated to the rural policy domain (2010: 341). Accordingly, Thomas Forster et Al. collected best practices from cities around the world to demonstrate the breadth of food policy and programmatic work that is occurring in urban areas, proposing a wide range of solutions for Mayors (2015). Their collection of policy solutions showed how “cities are moving towards an integrated approach to food systems and there are wide interest and experimentation in inter-departmental institutional mechanisms” (Forster et Al. 2015:17)

London Mayor Sadiq Khan buying food in a London Market (source Sustain)

In this context, the city of London shows a complex governance system (Travers 2002: 787) which at a first sight does not seem to leave much space to food policy. Thus, London has a two-tier structure with 32 boroughs plus the City of London representing local interests and the Greater London Authority (GLA), consisting of the Mayor and the Assembly, in charge of the London region (Travers 2018: 340). The London boroughs are responsible for local services delivery. In terms of policy competences, they run social care, environmental policies, road management, public health, social housing, waste management and they can supervise local schools (Travers 2018: 348). Whilst the Mayor establishes the strategic framework for the boroughs and the London plan, he also holds executive powers over transport – chairing the executive board of Transport for London – policing, fire, emergency services, London’s growth and economy. He even has a shared competence in housing and regeneration policy (Burdett and Rode 2015). By contrast, food policy in the UK appears fragmented amongst different policy sectors and layers. In particular, the multilevel nature of the food sector led food to be considered a “wicked issue” for policymaking and apparently unable to fit the policy system (Parsons, Barling and Lang 2018: 212). Consequently, an evident policy opportunity emerged for urban food policy, with the city of London experimenting new policy structures and promoting policy change.  

In the last years, the city of London has strengthened its commitment to food policy. The increased powers of the Mayor and the GLA enabled them to find new policy opportunities and address relevant issues for the capital, even in absence of strategic responsibilities. And food is one of these cases. Indeed, the Mayor and the GLA “consult widely and work closely with London organizations – boroughs, the private sector and voluntary bodies, in a new inclusive style of politics” (Pilgrim 2006: 226). Moreover, the Mayor has to enhance residents’ health and wellbeing, by also promoting social and economic development (Halliday and Barling 2018: 186). Hence, food policymaking can be enlisted within this duty. However, the creativity of Mayors in using their powers (Blick and Dunleavy 2017: 4) explicitly manifested concerning food. In fact, the current Mayor Sadiq Khan promoted a very interventionist policy campaign banning junk food advertisements from Transport for London, relying on its strategic direction over transport policy (Hawkes and Parsons 2019: 5). This policy action was firstly developed on-the-ground knowledge released by London boroughs (Hawkes and Parsons 2019: 5) and it showed how the complexity of London governance provides several policy opportunities encouraging the emergence of a complex urban food governance system. Additionally, the current London Plan provides support for food growing, local food production, encourages food waste management, aims to improve Londoners’ access to quality and healthy food (GLA 2016). Moreover, the plan intends to tackle food poverty by increasing the provision of land for food growing in London (GLA 2016: 323). Finally, it calls for the implementation of a new London Food Strategy (GLA 2016: 323). This strategy exemplifies the pan London commitment to food policymaking. The most recent – promoted by Mayor Sadiq Khan – was finally approved in 2018 (Hawkes and Parsons 2019: 4). It openly aims to guarantee that “all Londoners have access to healthy and sustainable food” (GLA 2018: 9) and “highlights how food is connected to everything we do as a society: it affects the environment, it drives our economy, affects our health and it is a central part of our cultural life” (GLA 2018: 7). Among its policy objectives, it differs from past food strategies in its promises to “tackle food poverty, child obesity and unhealthy food environments” (Hawkes and Parsons 2019: 4).

The implementation of the London Food Strategy has been supported by the London Food Programme, which is part of the GLA Regeneration and Economic Development Policy Unit. The Food Programme team also cooperates with food partners in the private, public and third sectors to deliver and monitor a wide range of projects which may concern public health, social welfare and environmental policy issues. It also works closely with the London Food Board. The board counsels the Mayor on food priorities for London and it is composed of experts from academia, the third and the private sector. Finally, London boroughs’ voice is heard through the Borough Food Sub-Group of the London Food Board (BFSG), which is primarily composed of officials from London boroughs’ public health teams (Hawkes and Parsons 2019: 5). It aims to strengthen the relationship between the GLA and London boroughs as regards food policymaking and reduce policy fragmentation. Since the Mayor has limited powers on food-related issues and boroughs have no obligation to follow his recommendations, the subgroup offers a more democratic arena for discussion (Halliday and Barling 2018). Moreover, the London Food Programme works in partnership with Sustain, an alliance of food and farming organizations, which supports London boroughs developing Food Poverty Action Plans (GLA n.d.). Sustain also releases every year the report “Beyond the Food Bank” to assess boroughs’ signs of progress in meeting food objectives over the year. The report shares every year what each London borough is doing on food to generate positive competition among each other. 

In this context, London Boroughs – like other local authorities in the UK – have a wide range of policy levers to produce long-term food policy change, and address social, economic and environmental issues as well (Marceau 2018: 3). Food Poverty Action Plans represent one of these levers through which local authorities can work with local partners to tackle food poverty at the local level (Marceau 2018: 3). Here, the limited Mayoral powers and resources as regards food policymaking explain how several food policy networks and partnerships emerged, especially in London, to fill the gaps that neither city nor local politics managed to compensate. Thus, a food partnership represents a consortium of organizations, ideally from the public, voluntary, faith and community sectors, who locally commit to working together and tackling food poverty (Sustain 2020). In 2017 around 50 cross-sector food partnerships have been set up in the UK as part of the Sustainable Food Cities movement (Davies 2017: 3). Once established, they are generally constituted by cross-sector bodies. Davies reports that food partnerships may take different shapes, relying on a more formalized or more informal structure. Some are directly housed by public sector organizations and are generally staffed by government’s employees. Others may be staffed and funded by third sector organizations or even fully independent, with minimal available resources and mostly composed by volunteers (Davies 2017: 3).  

Ultimately, the complexity of London’s urban governance represented a fertile environment for food policymaking, especially considering the policy vacuum left by the UK central Government as regards food. Thus, food policies have been recently added to London’s local and city-region agendas. Firstly, the Mayor made food a relevant component of its London Plan and launched the third London Food Strategy. Then, London boroughs started implementing local food policies as food poverty action plans and cooperating with local food partnerships. Evidently, if urban planning neglected food policy for a long time, the case of London shows how an increasing number of local actors from the public, private and third sector have finally recognized the strategic significance of the food system for urban areas and, more in general, of food for communities’ health and wellbeing


Blick, A. and Dunleavy, P. (2017), Audit 2017: How democratic is the devolved government of London? London: Democratic Audit UK.

Burdett, R. and Rode, P. (2015), Who runs our cities? How governance structures around the world compare, The Guardian, Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2015/nov/25/who-runs-our-cities-how-governance-structures-around-the-world-compare

Davies, S. (2017), Food Partnership Structures: Stories from Sustainable Food Cities, Sustainable Food Cities, available at: https://www.sustainablefoodplaces.org/Portals/4/Documents/Governance%20and%20Structures%20Guide%20FinalAM.pdf

Forster, T. et Al. (2015), Milan Urban Food Policy Pact: Selected Good Practices from Cities, Utopie/29 Globalizzazione, Milan: Giangiacomo Feltrinelli Foundation.

GLA (2016), The London Plan: the spatial development strategy for London consolidated with alterations since 2011, available at: https://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/the_london_plan_2016_jan_2017_fix.pdf.

GLA (2018), The London Food Strategy, London: Greater London Authority, available at: https://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/final_london_food_strategy.pdf

GLA (n.d.), Food Poverty Action Plans , The Greater London Authority, available at: https://www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/business-and-economy/food/our-projects-food-london/food-poverty-action-plans.

Halliday, J. and Barling D. (2018), The Role and Engagement of Mayors in Local Food Policy, In Rethinking Food Policy: A Fresh Approach to Policy and Practice. London: Centre for Food Policy.

Marceau, A. (2018), Good Policy for Good Food: A toolbox of Local Authority food policy levers, Sustainable Food Cities, available at: https://www.sustainablefoodplaces.org/Portals/4/Documents/Good%20Policy%20for%20Good%20Food%20FINAL.pdf

Morgan, K. (2010), Feeding the City: The Challenges of Urban Food Planning, International Planning Studies, 14: 4, pp. 341-348.

Parsons, K. and Hawkes, C. (2019), Brief 4: Embedding Food in All Policies, In Rethinking Food Policy: A Fresh Approach to Policy and Practice, London: Centre for Food Policy, pp: 1-8.

Parsons, K., Barling, D. and Lang, T. (2018), UK Policymaking Institutions and their implications for integrated Food Policy (Chapter 7), Advances in Food Security and Sustainability, Volume 3, pp. 211-251.

Pilgrim, M. (2006), London Regional Governance and the London Boroughs, Local Government Studies, 32:3, pp.223-238.

Sustain (2020), Help tackle the root causes of food poverty with Food Power, Available at: https://www.sustainweb.org/foodpower/get_involved/

Travers, T. (2002), Decentralization London-style: The GLA and London Governance, Regional Studies, 36:7, pp. 779-788.

Travers, T. (2018), London: government and politics in the boroughs, in Dunleavy, P et al (Eds.), The UK’s Changing Democracy: The 2018 Democratic Audit. London: LSE Press.

Open Innovation and Business Modelling: towards a more sustainable and innovative approach

Open Innovation and Business Modelling: towards a more sustainable and innovative approach

On Friday 21th and Saturday 22th the students of the Urban Clinic Edu LabGov 2020 participated to the first workshop and co-working. The main goal of the meeting was to deepen the knowledge about an “Open and Collaborative Innovation” methodology that is lately gaining popularity.

On Friday, Professor Maria Isabella Leone, Director of the master in Open Innovation and IP at Luiss Business School, carried an interactive lesson, successfully involving students in a reasoning process, instead of flooding them with theoretical knowledge which hardly manages to capture students’ interest. The laboratory was based on the analysis of the innovative aspects and strategies of noted fashion brands, namely Ferragamo, Burberry, Piquadro and Stella McCartney and than investigate for business models of companies whose main scope is to revolutionize their activity and differentiate themselves from competitors. The students brought out interesting elements that were a source of reflection for the work they carried out the following day.

What emerged as a common trend is the transformation of waste materials into renewable resources so to create new fibres at low environmental impact. What has been stressed even more is that “Open Innovation” implies collaboration with actors coming from different realities, namely stat-ups, universities, customers, tech industries, incubators, consortia, spin-offs, industries and so on. This means there has to be trust in partnerships but whenever there is a common scope, the collaboration is more prone to be successful and consequentially improve the revenues of all participating actors.

The following day, Alessandro Piperno, PhD student in management at Luiss, exposed what a social enterprises is and how to help communities grow and develop in an urban context. After a brief talk about some important social enterprises like 4ocean, Made in Carcere, Patagonia, and Progetto Quid, students were inspired enough to propose some of their ideas in a process of brainstorming so to come up with three specific ideas to analyse more in detail for the next meeting. The laboratory’s outcome was an important step forward to understand new trends based on upcycle sustainable fashion and circular economy.

Next meeting will be on Friday 28th with the workshop “Entrepreneurship” held by prof. Alessandro Cavallo and Saturday 29th with the co-working “Building a social enterprise”  in which EDU 2020 tutors together with a jury of experts will listen to LabGovers’ pitch on their design idea. The laboratory will be an occasion for students to  test their ideas and get a feedback from experts in the field so to continue shaping their ideas and let the project evolve throughout the laboratory.

Let’s begin! The first module: Idea Generation Lab will take place on February 21th and 22th

Let’s begin! The first module: Idea Generation Lab will take place on February 21th and 22th

The first module will be dedicated to Open Innovation and Open Business modeling.

 On Friday the 21st the first workshop will take place in classroom 305b from 4pm to 6pm in the Luiss campus located at Viale Romania 32.

The Urban Clinic will host Maria Isabella Leone, professor at the department of Business and Management and executive director of the master in Open Innovation and Intellectual Property. As an expert in open innovation she will analyze some examples of firms that successfully adopted approaches based on open innovation. This workshop will provide students many insights to stimulate their creativity so to come up with some ideas to tackle our challenge.

On Saturday the 22nd the firs co-working session will take place in classroom 103b from 10am to 5pm at the Luiss campus located in Viale Romania 32.

The Urban Clinic will host Alessandro Piperno, Luiss PhD student in Management. During the co-working session, the students will be divided into three groups, each group has to develop an idea’s proposal able to overcome our challenge. Every group will then present its idea to the rest of the students and work on a power point presentation to redefine it and analyze in depth the topic. Once the idea generation process will be gone underway, Alessendro Piperno will explain to students the basic notions to carry out a business model so to provide students with practical skills that will help them turn their ideas into reality.

Opening day of the LabGov Interdisciplinary Urban Clinic 2020

Opening day of the LabGov Interdisciplinary Urban Clinic 2020

On Friday, February 14th, the opening meeting of the LabGov 2020 Interdisciplinary Urban Clinic took place at the LOFT of the Luiss Guido Carli University .

The theme of the meeting was the Open and Collaborative Innovation for Sustainable Fashion and we had the honor to host the Luiss General Manager, Giovanni Lo Storto, Professor Maria Isabella Leone, Executive Director of the Master in Open Innovation & Intellectual Property at Luiss Business School and Dr. Luciana Delle Donne, founder and CEO of Made in Carcere.

Credits to Luiss Loft

The first part of the meeting was dedicated to the LabGov.City team presentation to the students with a focus on the projects carried out so far and the future goals that will see them involved. It was Dr. Lo Storto who welcomed the new LabGovers (the students of the Urban Clinic) and recalled the true meaning of the word “sustainability” that means awareness and coherence and sustain in the sense of creating and sustaining long lasting beauty. LabGov represents this kind of support as well as the exact edge of the role that a university and a training place should have in empowering students to the value of preserving the planet, the value of physical work, the respect for the city and the maintenance of public heritage with the final scope to train not only technicians but good citizens.

The meeting continued with an informal talk between Professor Maria Isabella Leone and Dr Luciana Delle Donne: with them we have combined both the theoretical and practical approach. In particular, Prof Leone highlighted the importance for a company to adopt  Open Innovation’s methodology to be competitive in the market and improve the resilience of an enterprise. The real challenge, prof Leone points out, is to transform an Open Innovation methodology into concrete results by creating new business models that have a positive economic and social impact. Together with Dr. Luciana Delle Donne, we observed how innovative and sustainable social enterprises can be generated, involving fragile communities. Luciana told us her story, in particular her “second life” when after twenty years of employment in the world of finance she decided to devote herself to social entrepreneurship: in 2007 the brand “Made In Carcere” was born. The project aims to generate awareness and responsibility by including the inmates of Lecce prison in a dynamic process that gives them a job, a salary and above all the ability to face the world once their detention is over. The real challenge in social innovation is to go against the general trend because habits and mentality are the hardest thing to change.

The second phase of the meeting witnessed the presentation of numerous initiatives that will be invited to cooperate in the Urban Clinic, including the project of Francesco Malitesta and Edoardo Croce creators of the Artwear Lab “X-novo”, a roman start-up based on the exchange and reuse of garments that involves the participation of roman street artists. Flavia Romei told us about her atelier at Pigneto “Cheap Lobster” which creates tailor-made skirts with a mix of fabrics from textile scraps coming from fashion industries.

Finally, during the Magic City, the Christmas market promoted by Luiss, LabGov collaborated with Viving, a local NGO, and Young Ethos, a group of students of the Luiss Business School, to create a collection point of used clothes in order to donate them, regenerate and reuse them.

Claudia Chimenti, President of Viving and Beatrice Signoretti and Jacopo Ventura representing Young Ethos, told us about the evolution of Magic City. A part of these garments will be regenerated during the Urban Clinic thanks to the collaboration of several actors.

Next appointment on February 21st with the first module “Idea Generation Lab” and the workshop on the theme of “Open Innovation” presented by Prof. Leone, and the co-working with Dr. Alessandro Piperno on “Sustainable and Open Business Modelling Lab”. It will be a key moment to pique students’ interest, unite the Edu LabGov 2020 community and find the starting point from which to start a co-design process.