Co-building more sustainable Walloon cities – When students and municipalities join their ideas
From September to October, nearly 60 students of 2nd Master's degree at HEC Liège had the opportunity to collaborate with the municipalities of Crisnée, Hotton, Marche-en-Famenne and Wavre in the framework of a new optional course entitled "Sustainabilty and Smart Territories".
- Soft mobility for Crisnee
- Citizen communication platform for Hotton
- Air quality measurement for Marche-en-Famenne
- And real-time data platform to optimise traffic for Wavre
Deepen existing projects
Following the call for "Intelligent Territory" projects launched by the Walloon Region as part of its Digital Wallonia strategy last January, the SCI proposed to the municipalities not selected to submit their project to its students. Through this course, the idea is to offer them the opportunity to explore other avenues and to deepen the reflection in progress.
Simon Habran, alderman at the municipality of Hotton: "At Hotton, we remain convinced of the interest of the project submitted. On the other hand, as a small municipality, we have neither a department nor a person dedicated to the development of Smart City projects. Seeing students bring their skills and points of view to this project, while being supervised by SCI's academic team, was certainly a unique opportunity to move forward.”
On the basis of the knowledge acquired during the course and the exchanges with the municipalities, the students were able to identify different possible solutions, measure their feasibility according to the constraints and specificities of the territory, and finally, at the end of the course, submit new ideas to be implemented. Simon Habran adds: "At present, we have a very good working basis to be able to mature our thinking and decide on a follow-up for the project.”
An experience off the beaten track
Nathalie Crutzen, Academic Director of SCI also specifies that this awareness-raising approach is now well established at HEC Liège, since this training is a continuation of a seminar already organised by her team since 2010. "Indeed, it is now essential, in our opinion, to make tomorrow's professionals aware of these themes so that they can be the vectors of change undertaken by cities and companies to become more sustainable.”
Hervé Léonard, local councillor in Crisnée adds: "In such a context, it is essential to train future managers in the needs of the public sector. And this means raising awareness through field studies. This is why we (i.e. the team that worked on the submitted project) are still open to discussions with the students, in a logic of sharing and constructive exchanges.”
But what did the students think about this experience?
Antoine Colin: "Personally, I wasn't aware that "smaller" municipalities like Hotton or Crisnée were interested in this kind of problem. I thought it was more the responsibility of big cities like Liège or Namur. Today I realise that most of us have too limited knowledge of the public sector and the actions that have been put in place. By working on this type of project, we become aware of the realities, barriers and limits they face on a daily basis.”
Maria Laura Mannelli: "This course is also a great opportunity to get away from theory and put into practice all the knowledge we have acquired over the last 5 years through a real project.”
Pierre Yves Bastin: "As the weeks go by, we are developing a mentality that is more open to sustainability, thanks to the teaching of the SCI but also thanks to the testimonies of the speakers received during the course: this allowed us to discover the initiatives already developed in Belgium.”
Climathon Liege - Challenging the young generation on environmental issues
La volonté du SCI à travers ce cours était donc d’amener les étudiants à prendre part à une dynamique Smart City bel et bien existante sur le territoire wallon, mais aussi de les amener à se pencher sur la question environnementale, en les impliquant dans la première édition du Climathon Liège. L’objectif : développer des projets visant à faire de Liège une ville plus verte et plus durable en s’attaquant aux défis climatiques qui la touchent directement. A l’issue de ces 50 heures de co-création, 4 projets ont été récompensés, dont 2 portés par des étudiants issus du cours : Cities on Move (mobilité), et URBn’Bee (agriculture urbaine), tous deux aujourd’hui incubés au VentureLab, afin de développer leur idée en vrai projet entrepreneurial ! Aventure à suivre …
The wish of the SCI through this course was therefore to bring the students to take part in a Smart City dynamic which is already existing in Wallonia, but also to bring them to look into the environmental question, by involving them in the first edition of the Climathon Liège. The objective: to develop projects aimed at making Liège a greener and more sustainable city by tackling the climate challenges that directly affect it. At the end of these 50 hours of co-creation, 4 projects were rewarded, 2 of which were led by students from the course: Cities on Move (mobility), and URBn'Bee (urban agriculture), both now incubated at the VentureLab, in order to develop their idea into a real entrepreneurial project! The adventure continues ...