PhD dissertation: Habitats and harbours for sustainability experimentation in the regions of Europe - A contribution to the geographical articulation of the niche for sustainability experiments

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A meeting of a local food network in Budapest. Photo: Harm van den Heiligenberg.

The urban and regional environment contains important enabling conditions for the testing and diffusion of sustainability innovations. Some remarkable conditions include the presence of countercultures and of vibrant environments with conferences and festivals. Van den Heiligenberg will defend his PhD thesis on December 7, 2022 at Utrecht University.

We are approaching the biophysical limits of the Earth System, which is why a transition to a more sustainable world is necessary. This PhD research focuses on regional contexts where innovative solutions are flourishing, in various so-called ‘living labs’ in Europe. The transition theory suggests that a needed large change starts small, in these labs. This research maps the frontrunner regions, which offer combinations of various conditions, such as an environment with a counterculture, and regional networks with a culture of trust and openness where social learning takes place. Furthermore, a vibrant environment with conferences and festivals is important for knowledge exchange. This research shows that within the analysed regions these conditions are present in Amsterdam, Utrecht, Dublin, Budapest and Barcelona.

This thesis contains a roadmap for regional stakeholder networks to assess the existing and necessary local conditions in their region. This roadmap has already been implemented in the Province of Utrecht in The Netherlands.

One of the respondents in this research said “we are part of a ‘global community’, of a larger movement of motivated sustainability pioneers”. Van den Heiligenberg suggests that such a global community, with shared sustainability ambitions and well connected via global networks, can be of great importance for the transition towards a better world.

Start date and time
End date and time
Location
Academiegebouw, Domplein 29, Utrecht
PhD candidate
Harm van den Heiligenberg
Dissertation
Habitats and harbours for sustainability experimentation in the regions of Europe: A contribution to the geographical articulation of the niche for sustainability experiments
PhD supervisor(s)
Prof. Dr. M.P. Hekkert
Prof. Dr. F.G. van Oort
Co-supervisor(s)
Dr. G.J. Heimeriks