The Role of University Partnerships in Urban Sustainability Experiments: Evidence from Asia

Part of the Hexagon Series on Human and Environmental Security and Peace book series (HSHES, volume 10)


University-driven partnerships and experiments for advancing urban sustainability are flourishing around the world. Responding to drivers such as calls for stakeholder engagement in research, tangible social and economic contributions, and government funding incentives, Asian research universities are also forming cross-sector partnerships and implementing various sociotechnical experiments. In this chapter we examine the role of university partnerships in knowledge co-production and implementation of urban sustainability experiments in industrialized Asian nations. By examining fifteen cases from Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong and Korea, we highlight common attributes (focus areas, actors, motivations and mechanisms) and then investigate the functions, motivations, barriers and significance of roles assumed by differing societal sectors. A detailed case study of an ambitious project from the University of Tokyo then follows to further illustrate these attributes in context. Key findings are that, overall, university partnerships for urban sustainability in our Asian sample are dominated by technical approaches. Yet the most significant barriers are human aspects such as time restraints, lack of unity, and poor management and leadership, to name several. On key drivers, government funding is playing a major role in enticing partnership formation and influencing particular approaches to urban sustainability. Measures are required to encourage the participation of the social sciences and humanities, and non-technical sustainability experiments. Case study evidence suggests that the ability of partnerships to tackle complex social issues and trigger societal transitions towards sustainability is often constrained by existing research projects and the institutional capacities of universities and their partners.


Asia urban sustainability experiment transition transformation partnership university co-design co-production 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of International, Development, Community, and EnvironmentClark UniversityWorcesterUSA
  2. 2.Fenner School of Environment and SocietyAustralian National UniversityCanberraAustralia

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