Strengthening city–university partnerships to advance sustainability solutions: a study of research collaborations between the University of British Columbia and City of Vancouver

Stefan U. Pauer (UBC Sustainability Initiative, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada)
Angelique Pilon (UBC Sustainability Initiative, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada)
Brad Badelt (Sustainability Group, City of Vancouver, Vancouver, Canada)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Publication date: 23 July 2020

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to investigate sustainability research collaborations between the City of Vancouver and the University of British Columbia (UBC), as a case study to better understand how to use city–university partnerships to advance effective urban sustainability policy and practices. The study compiles a basic inventory of partnerships since 2010, describes their benefits, areas for improvement, barriers to collaboration and proposes ways to increase and improve future collaborations.

Design/methodology/approach

The study draws on an electronic survey completed by 58 individuals and interviews with 13 such participants who were faculty members and staff at UBC and Vancouver.

Findings

Most collaborations responded to climate change in some way, were initiated through informal professional relationships and involved single departments in each organization. Projects ranged in size, duration and level of municipal funding. Although project participants were generally happy with past experiences, future collaborations could be improved by increasing leadership commitment and resources and producing more mutually beneficial outcomes. Barriers included lacking awareness of potential partners, difficulty aligning municipal needs with academic research interests and divergent expectations about project resources. The study recommends introducing formal processes to help identify overlapping interests and opportunities, enhance co-creation of projects and increase leadership and resources.

Practical implications

The findings may inform the development and implementation of future city–university partnerships to advance sustainable policies and practices in urban areas.

Originality/value

This paper contributes by reviewing experiences with city–university collaborations and offering evidence-based recommendations to improve them, thereby increasing opportunities for more effective urban sustainability solutions.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This research was undertaken as part of the Emerald Corridor Collaboratory, an initiative to advance city–university partnerships, and supported by the Bullitt Foundation. The authors would like to thank Mina Parsian for contributing her graphic design skills, Maxwell Armenta for assistance in identifying relevant literature, and the interviewees and survey respondents for volunteering their time to participate in this research.

Citation

Pauer, S.U., Pilon, A. and Badelt, B. (2020), "Strengthening city–university partnerships to advance sustainability solutions: a study of research collaborations between the University of British Columbia and City of Vancouver", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 21 No. 6, pp. 1189-1208. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-10-2019-0316

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Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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