City and university in tandem on the road to sustainability

From 15 to 17 November 2022, the members of the EUniverCities network came together in Innsbruck to exchange ideas on sustainability, especially sustainable urban development. They also discussed how the network can actively contribute to sustainable urban development and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations.


"For us, acting sustainably always means acting on a European level and thinking about the world, accepting that in the end we can only master the really urgent tasks together", the Mayor of Innsbruck Georg Willi said. He explained, "This starts on a small scale, locally, in the city, in cooperation with local experts. In a university city like Innsbruck, this also means close cooperation with the universities. Since the topic does not end at the city or national borders, the tandem idea is so charming: city and university set out as a team, so to speak, on the road to Europe."


Rector Tilmann Märk agreed: "By working together as a 'tandem' in the EUniverCities network, the City of Innsbruck and the University of Innsbruck can deepen cooperation on different levels and learn from other European universities and cities with similar framework conditions and, conversely, share our experiences. The network helps us to better structure our cooperation, to make successes more visible and to leverage further potential." Wolfgang Streicher, Vice Rector for Infrastructure, added: "With sustainability, we are focusing on a topic at this conference in Innsbruck that requires close cooperation more than any other. Because we can only meet the great challenges of the future together and in an interdisciplinary way." The University of Innsbruck is working across disciplines on sustainability-related topics, from mobility, resource use and sustainable building to the legal framework for sustainable development.

Riding tandem has to be learned

"Particularly when it comes to international cooperation, we benefit greatly from the expertise of our universities," confirmed City Councillor Christine Oppitz-Plörer, who is also responsible for European relations and Innsbruck's universities: "As scientific institutions, universities are internationally oriented in their self-image. Cooperation and internationality are, so to speak, part of their core competences. So we are riding tandem with an 'expert', a 'professional'. This strengthens self-confidence. But the shared experience as a European tandem also brings us closer together. Better teamwork outside the European Network is an added benefit, so to speak."

In her keynote speech on the opening day of the meeting, Verena Ringler explained why university cities in Europe are natural laboratories for the Sustainable Development Goals. "City halls and universities can bring different voices to the table, research and develop together, try new things." Strong public institutions now have key roles, she said. "No algorithm will achieve the SDGs - people will. […] In the case of the energy or mobility transition, for example, it is important to devote as much time and resources to the community paths as to the technical goals."


EUniverCities Network Meeting

Contributing to the achievement of the 17 SDGs has been one of the declared goals of EUniverCities since the network was founded in Ghent in 2012.

In line with the sustainability theme, the network meeting was planned according to Green Event standards. Four main topics (“Clean Energy”, “Sustainable Housing”, “Sustainable Mobility” and “Urban Planning”) were discussed in panels, lectures, presentations, workshops, city walks and visits.

The central aim of the meeting was to learn from and with each other and to gain a better understanding of the possibilities of city-university cooperation in the field of sustainable urban development.

You can expect more updates and reports from the meeting from us soon!

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