Mistra Urban Futures: Knowledge Transfer Programme

The Knowledge Transfer Programme, supported by Mistra Urban Futures, aims to create knowledge platforms that straddle the researcher-practitioner divide and are better positioned to develop nuanced policy responses to complex urban sustainability challenges facing Cape Town. Through these knowledge platforms new and different knowledge’s will be brought to bear on policy-making processes and the legibility of these processes, to those not directly involved, will be increased. The purpose of the Knowledge Transfer Programme is to explore institutional collaboration between the university and municipal authorities, in the interest of sustainable and just cities. The project has been running since 2012, and is currently in its second phase.

Within the Knowledge Transfer Programme, 4 academic researchers from ACC are ‘embedded’ in relevant departments of Cape Town’s local government, the City of Cape Town, for 7 months a year over 3 years to work on specified policy areas. These policy areas were jointly selected by the City of Cape Town and ACC as urban sustainability priorities for the city that could benefit from new knowledge, namely:

  • Designing a green economy
  • Addressing climate change
  • Reconfiguring the spatial distribution of the local economy
  • Governing the energy system

The first phase involved 4 PhD researchers being embedded in various departments within the City of Cape Town. In addition, a writers exchange was organised where academics and municipal officials co-authored academic articles. Given the success of phase one – in academic output and influencing policy – a second phase was conceived.

Two PhD researchers (Sean Cooke and Craig Davies) have been embedded in the City of Cape Town in the Transport and Development Authority and in 2018 will be commencing the second year of their PhDs. In support of the research, a transit-oriented development (TOD) working group will be convened in collaboration with other embedded researchers, academics from the Centre for Transport Studies at UCT and members of the Gauteng City Region Observatory (GCRO) who are also working on TOD. 

Implementing the SDGs
Dr Sylvia Croese will be embedded in Operations Policy Management, and will be focusing on researching the implementation of SDGs, the New Agenda and 100 Resilient Cities as part of the comparative SDG project. A reference group of experts from the City of Cape Town and relevant research units is being convened to support the research process. 

An embedded researcher will also be placed between the Arts and Culture and Architecture departments within the Social Services Directorate. The embedded researcher will be working on cultural policy and planning. The researcher will be part of a cultural planning research team between the City of Cape Town and the ACC. 

The follow-up book on climate change in Cape Town co-produced by City officials and UCT academics (edited by Di Scott, Mark New and Helen Davies) was published by UCT Press in 2019.

Policy process
The researchers are supporting the policy process by contributing new knowledge, establishing and strengthening reference groups made up of stakeholders from within local government, higher spheres of government, the private sector and civil society organisations to share perspectives and debate options, and documenting the process of knowledge flows and public decision-making.

In turn, City officials with a deep involvement in urban sustainability policy development are selected to spend a total of 2 months at the University of Cape Town receiving guidance and support in writing and publishing their account of policy development on their respective focus areas. They thereby contribute to making policy processes more legible and disseminating practical knowledge and experiences of urban (un)sustainability.