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Mayor of Delft praises collaboration with Leiden and Rotterdam

‘Make use of us!’ This is what the collaborating universities of Rotterdam, Delft and Leiden have to say to administrators and policymakers. And the call has not fallen on deaf ears, says Marja van Bijsterveldt, the Mayor of Delft. ‘Now more than ever we can use knowledge to solve societal issues in the city.’

This article previously appeared in the Leiden-Delft-Erasmus magazine.

Van Bijsterveldt believes that the new strategy and intensified collaboration between Leiden University, Delft University of Technology and Erasmus University Rotterdam is a good thing. ‘With our knowledge institutions organising and joining forces, we are bound to make a difference. Particularly as they want to use their knowledge to help solve societal problems in the region. This means that the knowledge that we possess is not esoteric but can be used here and now. The universities supply engineers and other graduates. With this new LDE strategy, these will be engineers and other graduates who also have a social conscience.’

More than a technical solution alone

The collaboration between the municipalities and universities is nothing new. The Municipality of Delft has worked closely with Delft University of Technology for some years already. And as in other municipalities, civil servants in Delft are also working with academics and students to find solutions to the challenges facing society.

‘Some social issues call for more than a technical solution alone

To what extent does the new LDE strategy supplement this? Van Bijsterveldt says, ‘This strategy adds several dimensions. Delft University of Technology is a dab hand at finding technical solutions. But not all social issues require a technical solution or a technical solution alone. The LDE strategy makes it possible to take a multidisciplinary approach to solving the issues facing society. Many hands make light work, as they say.’

Increased social engagement

Like the universities, the local authorities are also working together, in various regional partnerships ranging from Metropolitan Region Rotterdam The Hague (MRDH) to Economic Board Zuid-Holland (EBZ). At this supra-urban level, Van Bijsterveldt can also see opportunities for the LDE strategy. ‘We are on the cusp of radical developments, in the area of sustainability, for instance. These developments do not stop at the municipal boundary. One example is the idea for a regional heating network, stretching from Rotterdam to Leiden. We can also make good use of the available knowledge in such supra-urban programmes, not just to bring them to a good technical resolution, but also to increase social engagement and thus acceptance of them.’

‘Developments do not stop at the municipal boundary’

With sustainability, Van Bijsterveldt has also mentioned one of the four themes that the universities wish to address. The others are: healthy society, digital society and inclusive society.

With these themes, the universities are already demonstrating their social engagement,’ says Van Bijsterveldt, ‘because these are precisely the themes that are relevant to the big current economic and social transitions.’

The city or region as lecture hall

How do we deal with climate change, the digitalisation of society, energy issues and health care? How can we make the economy more sustainable? And above all, how do we ensure that different groups in society are not left behind, creating disruptive divisions in society?

‘We stand to gain by working together’

‘We stand to gain by working together in these areas. Society, this region will benefit: I’m convinced of that. The universities will also benefit. They can offer the city or region as a lecture hall or practical, and with their range of courses respond to a new demand for knowledge. And official organisations will also benefit if, supported by scientific research, they manage to develop more targeted and effective policy and involve stakeholders.’

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