Entrepreneurship and the transformation of historic urban areas


Utrecht University will participate in HUB-IN, a large-scale European study into the transformation of former industrial sites in historic urban areas. Led by the University of Lisbon, a total of eight European cities and eighteen partners will collaborate on this project over the next four years. The project has been co-funded by the European Commission with a grant of 8 million euro’s. The European Centre for Alternative Finance of the Utrecht University School of Economics (U.S.E.), CrowdfundingHub and the municipality of Utrecht together contribute substantially to HUB-IN from their expertise on entrepreneurship and alternative finance. The research in Utrecht will concern the development of the Werkspoorkwartier.


‘The HUB-IN (Hubs of Innovation and Entrepreneurship for the Transformation of Historic Urban Areas) project aims to develop and implement a common framework to boost the regeneration of historic industrial urban landscapes,’ says Erik Stam. His Entrepreneurial Ecosystem model will be used as the basis for a common framework for the development of the areas in all of the eight pilot cities.

Regeneration of historic urban landscapes

‘The framework we envisage will act as a catalyst for innovation and entrepreneurship aimed at preserving and strengthening both the historic area’s unique identity and its natural, social and cultural values,’ Stam continuous. ‘We see the regeneration of historic urban landscapes in an integrated way, not only confined to the heritage conservation of the historic centres, but inseparably aligned with sustainable development goals - thereby helping address the related global challenges facing Europe’s historic urban landscapes ’

Cocreation is the magic word for HUB-IN. The added value of the research project lies in the exchange of experiences and applications between the hubs in eight different European cities in Portugal, Great Britain, Cyprus, France, Italy, Romania, Slovenia and the Netherlands. Moreover, in their local projects all hubs work closely together with all kinds of stakeholders: entrepreneurs, local residents and the local government.

When we talk about entrepreneurship, it is clearly about more than just making profit.

Culture, societal issues, sustainability and: jobs

Ronald Kleverlaan, senior partner of CrowdfundingHub and managing director of the European Centre for Alternative Finance, will be leading the Research team in Utrecht, together with Niels Bosma. 'We are going to investigate how we can carry out the transformation of these former industrial areas mainly by stimulating entrepreneurship,' says Kleverlaan. 'We will look for new business and financing models, but also for new ownership models for the use of the heritage sites; for example cultural incubators which are owned by the cultural entrepreneurs who work there'.

‘When we talk about entrepreneurship, it is clearly about more than just making profit,' says Niels Bosma. ‘Cultural entrepreneurship wants to change the world; there’s a close connection to societally engaged entrepreneurs and with entrepreneurship aimed at sustainability, including the link with the energy transition. This research project therefore also fits well with Utrecht University's Social Entrepreneurship Initiative, in which researchers from different disciplines, together with various organisations develop knowledge to stimulate entrepreneurship aimed at societal challenges. Social entrepreneurs address societal challenges and come up with innovative solutions to complex problems related to for example inclusive labour markets, waste, and global value chains.’

‘Ultimately, it's also about employment,' Kleverlaan would like to add. ‘We want to stimulate entrepreneurship - but not as an end in itself. Zzp'ers behind laptops do not create enormous added value for the economy in the region. You also need scale ups where tens, hundreds, maybe thousands of people will find a job. The labour productivity of those organizations is much higher'.

Research team

The researchers involved are:

Project leader

Ronald Kleverlaan

Ronald Kleverlaan

E-mail: r.j.kleverlaan@uu.nl

Managing director European Centre for Alternative Finance


Would you like to know more about this project? Please contact the project leader, Ronald Kleverlaan: r.j.kleverlaan@uu.nl.