Meeting of the Minds and IHS - Innovations for Sustainable Cities

IHS participated in ‘the Meeting of the Minds’, the premier leadership summit for sustainable cities in Omaha, USA in June 2010. IHS (IHS director Kees van Rooijen and Saskia Ruijsink) gave a presentation about the Rotterdam clean tech delta case study which is relevant for sustainable urban development approaches in times of climate change. IHS’ input was much appreciated.  Gordon Feller, who created and convenes the annual Meeting of the Minds with Toyota expressed his appreciation of IHS contribution as follows: “your session in Omaha certainly seems to have been the one that kicked the debate up to a new level....we have you to thank for that.” Gordon Feller is director at Cisco Systems and he was CEO of Urban Age Institute, assisting leaders seeking to implement smarter strategies to create more sustainable cities. IHS was grateful to be invited in this interesting, future-oriented and professionally organised event.

What is the Meeting of the Minds?

“At Meeting of the Minds, the premier leadership summit for sustainable cities, connecting the dots is not a game. It’s a core item on the agenda when more than 100 leaders from more than 15 countries join counterparts from public, private and independent sectors in Nebraska and the region. It’s about making sense of the complex interplay that links natural ecosystems, human infrastructure—energy, transport, waste, and water. It’s about the right balance of national programs, urban policies, financial incentives, land use plans, political leadership, and citizen ingenuity. Getting connected is more than just the result of connecting the dots. It’s what happens every year during Meeting of the Minds.

Meeting of the Minds is two and a half days of intensive exchange for leaders creating more sustainable cities using smarter design tools, sounder environmental practices, and cleaner energy systems. Meeting of the Minds is where innovators scaling-up practical urban innovations in infrastructure meet innovators in technology, energy, transport, water, finance—all are building more liveable cities. At Meeting of the Minds, leaders from multiple sectors and diverse geographies share ideas and shape a common agenda.

Each year's Meeting of the Minds builds on previous years' successes: 2007, when University of California hosted in Oakland 2008, when Oregon Business Council and Portland State University hosted in Portland 2009, when JPMorgan Chase hosted in New York City”

What did IHS present at the meeting of the minds?
Innovative solutions to climate change and energy challenges

Innovation can be simply defined as being about new ideas which increase the performance. Traditionally innovation has been defined as technological innovation; e.g. a technological adaption that helped to increase to make a production process more cost-efficient, or the development of a new technological gadget such as a mobile device for internet. We see innovation as something bigger, which can also be related to new ideas for organizational and institutional or even spatial arrangements. Innovation can work for firms or for clusters of firms but also for neighbourhoods, cities, nations, regions, etc. Since we live in rapidly changing world, it has been accepted that we need innovations in order to remain competitive.

But if we look at the real challenges of today and tomorrow, such a climate change and depletion of natural resources: What does increased performance mean? And what is competitiveness? We should interpret innovation, increased performance and competitiveness from the sustainability perspective; focusing on people, planet and profit and on synergies between them. We should be innovating for resilient cities and communities, smartly using resources and reducing GHG emission.

One of the icons of Europe, the Netherlands and the delta region of Rotterdam and Delft is the port of Rotterdam. Over time, the port activities moved out of the city centre of Rotterdam and left 1600 hectares of old port area, land that is waiting for new use, to the city. As a result several actors came together to address the need to increase performance and become more competitive, the basis for the Clean Tech Delta. They addressed the need to innovate at the level of the firms, clusters of firms, knowledge institutes, and public institutions, neighbourhoods in the city, cities and the city region, aiming to use the potential of the old port area.

The Clean Tech Delta is a unique collaboration between firms, public institutions and academic and training institutes that has been set-up to contribute to a number of concrete projects for the transformation of the city port area in the Rotterdam Delft delta region. The Clean Tech Delta Initiative is a project that exactly does this and it is an innovative approach and model of collaboration in itself, which in its turn generates innovation.

Michael Porter developed the diamond model in 1990 to analyze the competitiveness of nations and this useful model has inspired strategists in the past 20 years in the field of innovation, performance and competiveness. Our interpretation of innovation, performance and competiveness might have changed over time; however the diamond model remains to help us to understand the success factors and logic behind an initiative such as the Clean Tech Delta. The diamond identifies factor conditions, in a nation, or a city which contribute to competitiveness of firms or organizations. Factors include 'basic factors' (such as natural resources, climate, location, and demographics) and 'advanced factors' (such as communications infrastructure, sophisticated skills, and research facilities). The latter are the most significant for competitive advantage. Then there is a particular role for demand conditions, where sophisticated and highly demanding customers in the home market are considered particularly important in shaping the level of innovative outputs of firms and organizations. Firms and organization perform better in clusters since the investments of one of the organizations in advanced factors of production (think about infrastructure) are likely to have spill over benefits to the others, so there is a benefit to proximity of related and supporting industries. Eventually, different countries, regions or cities produce more or less successful firms since they have a specific culture with specific characteristics which lead to one or more models of firms or organizations: with particular strategies, structures, goals, managerial practices, individual attitudes, and intensity of rivalry within the business sector. Eventually, the public sector should formulate policies and implement its policy with instruments (carrots and sticks) which can create an environment in which firms and organizations can become more competitive and where they are stimulated to increase their performance.

Government is a complex actor operating with different interests and at different scales. In our case of the Clean Tech Delta, the EU is one of the ‘governments’. The EU aims to create an environment conducive for innovation and has formulated 5 propositions:
1.    Broaden the concept of innovation
2.    Speed –up, up-scale and synchronize innovation
3.    Invest in infrastructure, unlock its potential (factor conditions)
4.    Innovative finance models
5.    New types of collaborations
The Dutch national government identifies the following conditions for innovation:
•    Excellent education and knowledge infrastructure
•    Flexible labour market, everybody participates
•    Superior basic infrastructure
•    Facilitating and stimulating government
In the Randstad region, in which Rotterdam and Delft are located the priorities are summarised in the Randstad Urgent Policy.
•    Mobility, accessibility and a dynamic economy
•    Attractive environment for living and working
•    A climate proof Delta
•    Long-term and sustainable development investment

This policy environment and the potential in the region were a conducive for setting up the Clean Tech Delta. As it was mentioned in the project team of Clean Tech Delta: ‘Innovation can only take place if focus on quality’. The institutions, organizations, firms in the Rotterdam Delft region want to innovate, use and generate new ideas to increase performance by improving the quality of their work and by collaboration. The location in the city port of Rotterdam, an area of 1600 hectares, offers a physical space to bring the potential of the region to life.

The Clean Tech Delta is a New Green Deal: a joint venture by trade and industry, education and government to stimulate innovation and clean technology and put them into practice.  It binds and creates synergies between a variety of stakeholders such as engineering offices and project developers, a  waste company, universities, energy and oil companies (including BP), municipalities of Rotterdam and Delft and a social housing agency (the partners are: Arcadis, AVR/Van Gansewinkel Group, BP, Delfland Water Board, Delft City Council, Delft University of Technology, Deltalinqs, E.ON, Eneco, Environmental Federation of South Holland, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Rotterdam City Council, Rotterdam University, TNO, Vestia/Estrade).

The Clean Tech Delta promotes sustainable development and describes this by the dimensions of economy, with its main focus on employment growth of environmental-technological promoting Clean Tech initiatives, developed by government bodies, educational institutions and trade and industry and of socio-economic including initiatives for raising awareness and improving living conditions and energy conservation.

The Clean Tech Delta has been set-up around 14 concrete projects which all related to the following thematic areas:
•    Energy efficiency
•    Water en delta technology
•    Sustainable energy generation
•    Sustainable mobility
•    Efficiency of materials
•    Waste disposal and recycling

The partners of the Clean Tech Delta work in teams of different members on the 14 projects. The Clean Tech Delta is more than just another network, it requires commitment and investment. Its inception was characterised by an investment of each of its partners, who all invested their time and human resources but also donated 100.000 Euro’s to mobilise a kick-off fund for collaboration. The 14 projects are financed by the partners and their financial value is estimated around 30 million Euro’s.

An example of an innovative overarching project is the REAP which stands for Rotterdam Energy Approach and Planning. This is one of the 14 projects of the Clean Tech Delta. Since the end of the 1980’s the sustainable approach to develop urban areas has followed a three step strategy of 1) reduce consumption, 2) use renewable energy and 3) Supply the remaining demand cleanly and efficiently. The REAP approach introduces an important intermediate step in between and comprises (partially inspired by the Cradle-to-Cradle philosophy) the following: 1) reduce consumption (using intelligent and bio climate design principles) and 2) reuse waste energy streams and 3) use renewable energy sources and ensure that waste is reused as food.

Illustrations made by artist Tom Laging during the meeting of the minds in Omaha, June, 2010

Why do we need the Clean Tech Delta for innovation? We need new ideas; the ideas will be generated by exchange of information, brining different sectors, organizations and individuals together. The Clean Tech Delta can also impact the demand and contribute to new generations of critical and demanding consumers in the region by joint lobby and marketing. It also needs to attract investment, which can result in better infrastructure, operating in a cluster with spill over effects, a highly qualified labour forces and joint acquisition for joint investment in factor conditions, including research projects. This can be achieved by controlled and measured development of land, which requires phases planning and implementation of spatial initiatives. The area will be spatially redeveloped and transformed, step by step, to reduce risks and keep investments under control. Then, innovation coming from the Clean Tech Delta should focus on quality. The competitive advantage of actors of the Rotterdam Delft region is to pioneer and to develop solutions that work.