Research Areas

URENIO research focuses on two fields (1) intelligent / smart cities: genesis and evolution, structure and ontology, architectures of intelligence, planning, strategy and governance, digital platforms, smart ecosystems, connected intelligence in cities, microservices, and cloud computing; (2) systems of innovation: territories and networks of innovation, cyber-physical systems, digital innovation, innovating with data, user-driven innovation, transformative innovation, digital and green transition, innovation strategies, smart specialisation strategies (RIS3), measuring innovation performance. These are two interdependent fields of research for creating cities and regions that sustain learning, new knowledge, technology, and innovation.

Intelligent / smart cities constitute a breakthrough in contemporary urban development and planning.  Two major forces sustain this paradigm: (a) knowledge and innovation processes that fuel contemporary economic development worldwide, and (b) the spread of the Internet, web, smart technologies and systems. It is important to understand the drivers of city intelligence that provide higher efficiency in addressing the grand challenges of development, sustainability, safety, and cohesion in contemporary cities. And how city intelligence is connected to the structure of intelligent cities and its three layers:

  • The city layer, the physical space of cities and people in the city, the intelligence, inventiveness, and creativity of individuals who live and work in the city.
  • The innovation layer, the institutions for research and innovation, the social capital and collective intelligence of a city’s population, and institutional mechanisms for knowledge and cooperation in learning and innovation.
  • The digital layer, data and analytics, algorithms and artificial intelligence, software applications, platforms, and e-services running across cities’ wired and wireless broadband infrastructure. 

In this field, the current research of URENIO is on ecosystems of connected intelligence, smart city ecosystems that integrate human, collective, and machine intelligence, and how they drive transformative innovations and new models for the digital and green transition. City Intelligence is hybrid, integrating human, collective, and machine intelligence, and the urban space and agglomeration work as integrator of different forms of intelligence.  

URENIO research also focuses on territories of innovation and the capacity of cities and regions to create environments that support R&D, human skills, and innovation. Interest in the contribution of cities and regions to technological innovation and knowledge-based development peaked after 1980 with research conducted on industrial districts of central and northern Italy, the innovation-led territories of the west coast of the USA, and the planning of large Technopolis programmes in Japan. Since then, technology and technological innovation have been standard points of reference in the planning of cities and regions with rapid developments in theory (regional innovation systems, learning regions, intelligent cities) and urban and regional policy and planning. In this context, URENIO has done research on urban and regional systems of innovation, district-based innovation ecosystems such as clusters, technology and science parks, and user-driven innovation ecosystems, as well as on the assessment of territories’ innovation performance.

Recently, the emphasis of our research has shifted to cyber-physical systems of innovation and the increasing role of open innovation, data-driven innovation, and digital innovation. The engagement of multiple innovation actors (quadruple helix, users and stakeholders, crowdsourcing), the emergence of bottom-up participatory platforms, and the central role of digital technologies in expanding the nodes of innovation systems have created stronger dynamics and global interactions. The effect of digital transformation towards more efficient, place-based and bottom-up innovation policies at different spatial scales has proven significant, as digital technologies modify existing policy-design routines in cities and regions. Smart places (cities, districts, neighbourhoods, ecosystems) depend on the way digitalisation disrupts systems of innovation in cities and regions, making them more open, global, participatory, and experimental.