Smart City-Regional Governance for Sustainability

Bas van Heur, Tassilo Herrschel, Igor Calzada

Research Cosmopolis Centre for Urban Research

Regional Studies Association Research Network

The Regional Studies Association (RSA) Research Network on Smart City-Regional Governance for Sustainability aims to explore the meaning and practice of ‘smartness’ in city-regional governance, as it seeks to balance the competing quests for urban international competitiveness, national economic development and societal and territorial cohesion. This competition sits under the discursive umbrella of sustainability as the overarching concept guiding this network. Our use of the term sustainability, therefore, signifies its broader conceptual understanding than suggested by the immediate association with ‘environment’. While environment marks an important dimension, other factors – in particular economic development, social and territorial cohesion – will also take a central position in our discussions. This includes in particular the interdependencies between them – be they concurrent or conflictual.

Globalisation has continuously raised the pressure on states, regions and localities to compete for presumed footloose capital in a bid to secure economic ‘growth’ as still predominant indicator of ‘success’. This has increasingly resulted in a focus on cities and city-regions as identified ‘motors’ of regional and national economic development, questioning the role of large-scale, more or less dirigiste, state policies. But cities have also been the primary targets of questions around the sustainability of continuous urbanisation and its role in tackling climate change. In particular, questions around economic development, societal cohesion and sustainable development have become more pertinent under the impact of now eight years of fiscal austerity, with state capacity to intervene in market-driven selective and rigorous exploitation of opportunities increasingly limited. One of the results has been a growing foray by cities into the international sphere as a way of opening up new prospects and opportunities, as well as political agency, beyond the confines of the respective state as their traditional political-economic context. International city networks and organisations for tackling climate change, or competitive economic development, are, therefore, key drivers of international engagement. Their increasingly easy cross-border reach encourages (or even requires) such new ways of political engagement.


Gerd Lintz, Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development, Germany

Tassilo Herrschel, University of Westminster, UK

Bas van Heur, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium

Yonn Dierwechter, University of Washington, Tacoma, USA

Further Members of the Network's Core Group:

Igor Calzada, University of Oxford (UK)

Stefano Di Vita, Politecnico di Milano, Milan (Italy)

Iwona Sagan, University of Gdańsk, Gdańsk (Poland)

Ethan Seltzer, Portland State University, Portland (USA)

See the RSA Network page for more information: