Utrecht University (UU), The Nederlands

Utrecht University (UU) is an internationally renowned research university. The quality of research at the University is demonstrated by positive research evaluations and a high position in international league tables. The 2015 Shanghai Rankings of world-class universities put Utrecht University in first place in the Netherlands, 17th in Europe and 56th worldwide. The Faculties of Geosciences and Law, Economics and Governance have leading international positions in academic research into sustainability, urbanisation, economics and governance. The extensive and internationally oriented research of these faculties makes a major contribution to the Shanghai ranking. Three departments will be involved in the IRIS lighthouse project: 


  1. Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, based in the Faculty Geosciences;
     The research group Energy & Resources (E&R) is the major group in the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development. Its research focus is the transition towards sustainable energy and resource systems, with special attention to integrating efficient use of energy and resources with renewable energy supply solutions, at various scales. It is the ambition of E&R to boost the transition towards a sustainable energy and resource system. The scientific quality of the E&R group has been evaluated in June 2014 by an external committee and has been awarded 19 out of 20 points, reflecting its international scientific top-level position. E&R addresses a number of grand challenges for the transition to a sustainable society. The ever-growing energy and materials demand of our society puts enormous pressure on our natural resources, renewable and non-renewable, reducing the environmental quality and increasing the constraints on resource availability. The response to these challenges requires a different approach to fulfil the energy services demand by society, including efficient use of energy and materials, shifting to renewable energy sources, mitigating risks of and adapting to climate change, reducing unsustainable land use change, and redirecting industrial metabolisms. This transformation is a multi-disciplinary process with a large number of stakeholders, requiring understanding and inputs from a variety of disciplines to come to collaborative solutions. The E&R group offers a unique multi-disciplinary environment to develop knowledge and collaborative science projects in this complex field. One of its research focus areas is smart grid development, large-scale penetration of photovoltaics and the need of flexibility in our energy grids. The research activities address integration of photovoltaics and other intermittent renewable sources in the energy system, predominantly applied in urban environments. Research includes data management platforms for smart energy and mobility solutions in cities, as well as monitoring, evaluating and optimizing these solutions in practice. Two senior and ten junior researchers are specialists in this area. The research group Environmental Governance formulates recommendations about interventions that have the potential to make governance outcomes more congruent with sustainability goals, like in the transition of cities towards near zero carbon cities. Special attention is given to the divergent perspectives and dimensions of stakeholder groups in transition processes, ranging from institutions to citizens, and to the content of modes of governance. The research is based on both empirical-analytical approaches (retrospective and explanatory oriented) and normative approaches (prescriptive and design orientated). An important research theme is what governance model cities and regions can deploy in order to create and implement user-driven sustainable solutions in urban environments.
  2. Utrecht School of Economics, based in the Faculty Law, Economics and Governance; 
    The Faculty of Law, Economics and Governance hosts three groups that will join forces in the IRIS lighthouse project: the Utrecht School of Economics (USE), the Utrecht Centre for Entrepreneurship (UCE) and the Sustainable Finance Lab (SFL). Together, they provide an extensive multidisciplinary basis for business modelling, financial models and institutional and governance model design, prerequisites in the transition towards smart sustainable cities.  At Utrecht School of Economics and specifically in Sustainable Finance Lab research focuses on financing the transition to more circular and sustainable economies. In addition it is the explicit aim of SFL to also develop practical solutions that can be tested in the field. Energy transition is one of the focal points in Dr. Mark Sanders research and the team of post-doc researchers at Sustainable Finance Lab in close collaboration with researchers in the chair of Strategy, Organisation and Entrepreneurship.
  3. Utrecht Sustainability Institute.
    The Utrecht Sustainability Institute (USI) is specialized in developing and coordinating sustainable innovation projects that start off from the Utrecht region, contributing to the transition towards sustainable urban regions, nationally and internationally. The Utrecht region is characterized by many knowledge institutions and companies providing sustainable solutions. By linking their knowledge to regional sustainability ambitions, complex issues can be solved in an integrated manner. USI works in close cooperation with knowledge centres, governments, businesses and societal organizations, bringing these parties together in research and innovation projects leading to smart and sustainable approaches related to the strategic reserves of energy, water and materials in urban areas. USI is reputed for its extensive experience in coordination of knowledge dissemination and communication, especially related to innovation and research projects that contribute to the urban energy transition Smart energy management, such as in smart grids, linked to changing energy demand patterns by urban heat pumps and electric mobility is an essential part in the research. Technological developments focus on smart solar charging, solar forecasting at the city/regional scale, tools for automatic performance analysis, shade resilient photovoltaic module design, and building integrated luminescent solar concentrators. In addition, environmental and life cycle cost analysis is essential part of all development work.