City of Ghent
Liaison Officer, EnerGhentIC
Expert Klimaatteam, City of Ghent
The city of Ghent has long been an inexhaustible case-study for educational and research projects within various EnerGhentIC topics. Occasional questions for advice (or research) related to the energy transition of the built environment in Ghent grew into a joint interest to tackle more complex and transdisciplinary issues and, ultimately, into a structural partnership.
The partnership provides a dedicated long-term 'safe space' to work together under various formats (from brainstorm series and student projects, to joint innovation and/or development projects…), always with the specificity of the challenges of Ghent in mind.
The liaisons, both at the city of Ghent and at EnerGhentIC, are the foundation of this partnership. We ensure a close communication and management within the collaboration and we are the guides to the experts at both institutions. We are facilitating the mutual understanding between the involved policy makers and researchers, thus establishing a common ground on which collaborations can flourish.
For the researchers involved, this collaboration offers a deeper understanding of the real-life complexities which go in hand with innovation, and inspires new research questions. It also increases interactions and understanding between researchers from different disciplines, by looking together at the same problem from different points of view. Thus the partnership with the city of Ghent contributes to the societal inspiration and to the valorization of scientific research.
Ghent targets, as part of its holistic sustainability agenda, to be a climate neutral city by 2050. To get there, the transition challenges are huge: the old and diverse building stock requires deep renovation, smart renewable energy systems need to be developed and we need to rethink organizational processes that allow the inclusion and participation of all inhabitants in the future energy system.
In order to tackle such complex challenges the city administration is preparing policy measures to facilitate these transitions, requiring us to look beyond our regular operation methods and to rethink our position amidst stakeholders. That's where this partnership comes in: EnerGhentIC provides us with a network of energy specialists from a variety of disciplines, technical and societal, who have knowledge about the various solutions and their future perspectives. It provides us with a safe space for regular and in-depth discussions on the wider and long-term consequences of our approaches, both at a technical and societal level. The format of this partnership differs from a traditional consultancy and tendering approach: we are partners along the way; we are learning and experimenting together.
The central challenge of our collaboration on is the energy transition of the built environment in Ghent. Two neighbourhoods, Muide-Meulestede and Mariakerke, are pilots in the transformation to climate-neutral districts. Via this collaboration innovations are introduced and evaluated in these neighbourhoods, and we experience them at first hand. Our partnership also allows us to operate as a strong tandem in the acquisition of projects and funds at local and EU level, and growing our partner networks.
“The format of this UGent - City of Ghent partnership differs from a traditional consultancy approach: we are partners along the way; we are learning and experimenting together”
Timo Wyffels, Coordinator-Expert Klimaatteam, City of Ghent