Lena Neij - December 2022
Welcome to Urban Interviews, a series in which we will get to know different members of the Urban Arena on a more personal level. What their interests are, how their research is going and what their visions for the future are.
This month we get to know Lena Neij, member of the Urban Arena steering group and one of the heads of the Governance, participation, planning and innovation unit.
To begin with it would be nice to know where you are from and what your path has been to get to where you are now?
I was born in Lund, grew up in Eslöv and studied at Lund University. My research is interdisciplinary and focuses on energy and climate governance on different levels of society. In recent years, more focus has been on urban transformations and local learning. A key area in my research is technical change and the introduction of new technologies, with a special interest in renewable energy technologies and low-carbon and circular buildings.
What are some research projects that you are focusing on right now?
I am working at the International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics at Lund University. We are a group of researchers focusing on urban transformations with different perspectives. My research is mainly centered on energy and climate, but also on the UN Agenda 2030, which is very important for a broader perspective of sustainability. I am interested in transformative processes of change in society, in evaluation and learning, to understand what we have learned by practicing different tools of policy and governance. In my research I combine governance and innovation literature to improve our knowledge on how to support the introduction of new technologies. In one ongoing project we look into the cost dynamics of solar cells, local costs and barriers, as well as potential local policy implications to support further implementation.
I collaborate with municipalities, like the city of Lund and Malmö, mainly on climate and energy issues. I have been chairing the climate council of the city of Lund, which consists of a group of researchers within Lund university and SLU Alnarp. We use our research to guide and evaluate what the municipality has been doing in terms of climate. We also develop research projects together with cities, based on what the interests for the future are.
The research has also focused on the experience of different governance tools used by municipalities worldwide, to see what kind of evaluations are available and what knowledge we can gain from them.
How come cities are such a focal point for you?
In our research on governance, we use a multi -level governance framework, linking the EU level of governance to the national level, and the local level of governance. In the recent 15 years, we have focused specifically on local and urban governance. We have strived to move beyond traditional methods of urban planning and to develop and work with new transdisciplinary tools to understand and practice urban governance. Important in this has been the collaboration with cities. In order to meet the climate challenges we face, governance at the local level needs to improve and align with improvements also on the EU-level and national level. The urban level is where we make a lot of decisions, and we need to understand how we can support climate mitigation and adaptation.
Your institute is the IIIEE, how is it connected to the Urban Arena?
Urban Arena is a network of researchers at Lund University and the IIIEE is a department within LU. Several researchers at the IIIEE have actively been engaged in Urban Arena over the years. Seeing the need for an interdisciplinary approach, I think it is great with the Urban Arena to have all these connections to the different faculties within Lund University. So, it is strong having the knowledge of a variety of areas.
Do you have a favorite city?
I like Lund, well I like a lot of cities. I like to go to different places to see how they vary from one another. I like Lund since it is a small city, where it is very easy to go from one place to another. It is very inclusive and there are a lot of young people in the city. It is very much a living city.
You mentioned that you have been in the Urban Arena from the start and now you are part of the steering group - what does the Urban Arena mean to you?
The Urban Arena to me is a possibility to work across the faculties. I think that is needed to meet our challenges. The Urban Arena is a very good example of making collaboration come true.
Do you have some wishes about how the Urban Arena could develop or continue changing?
I think it is a great network. It is so important to have a place to meet and have fun and get to know each other. Often, we forget how important it is to be connected to create great things. We can invite each other for educational activities, teaching and guest lectures and have a great time of knowledge exchange together. To have a fun place where you are going for a meeting with friends and you having a great time - those are my wishes for the Urban Arena.
If you want to learn more about what Lena is doing you can have a look at her institute’s website https://www.iiiee.lu.se/index.php/international-institute-industrial-environmental-economics and at her research portal profile https://portal.research.lu.se/sv/persons/lena-neij.
Read more about research on Urban Transformations at IIIEE.