Research team

Expertise

Prof dr. Tom Coppens holds a Master in Architectural Engineering (KU Leuven,1997), a master in urban planning and urbanism (KU Leuven 1999) and a PhD in architectural Engineering (KU Leuven 2011). Coppens combined his academic career with a career as practitioner as urban planner at the City of Antwerp, where he was in charge of the management of complex urban development projects and strategic structure plans. Since 2006 he is a lecturer at Artesis University college. After his PhD Coppens started as a full time junior lecturer at Artesis university college and since 2013 he is a senior lecturer at the university of Antwerp. Coppens founded the research group for urban development and is head of the master programme of urban development. Coppens academic research and expertise is oriented to the design and management of complex urban development projects and spatial governance. He published on process and project management and in particular on stakeholder management and community protest in complex urban projects. Coppens is also expert on strategic planning processes and statutory planning instruments for urban development. Besides his academic work, Coppens actively contributes to debates on policy making in urban development and spatial planning in Flanders. He is a member of several advisory boards on spatial planning and urban development for provincial and the regional government

Research and development project on the spatial planning issue in the Rupel region in the context of developments within Flanders Technology & Innovation 20/12/2022 - 31/05/2023

Abstract

The purpose of this cooperation agreement is to examine the spatial planning issue in the Rupel region in the context of developments within Flanders Technology & Innovation. The Department of Culture, Youth and Media wants to gain insight into the spatial planning and associated creative possibilities in terms of mobility and economic development in the Rupel region and more specifically in Boom and Rumst. The potential of this area will be investigated in order to anchor the Flemish innovative entertainment sector on the one hand and to realize a broad social upgrading of the Rupel region on the other hand.

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  • Research Project

Complex planning processes: productive, healthy and sustainable neighbourhood development. 27/09/2022 - 30/09/2023

Abstract

This assignment guides the city of Sint-Niklaas in exploring the development potential and associated litigation of the SVK site. The assignment starts by mapping the agendas of the various actors regarding the programming of the site. With the expansion of Stad Sint-Niklaas with the SVK Stadslob, the mobility network for accessing the site will also be reviewed. In this process, we will also make an inventory of international exemplary practices of spatial and cultural appropriation. Finally, we take the step towards implementation and advise on the available planning instruments, as well as the urban development process.

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  • Research Project

Conflict in Transformation (CONTRA) 01/04/2022 - 31/03/2025

Abstract

Polarisation threatens the transformative capacity of cities at a time when collective plans for a more sustainable and resilient urban future are needed. The typical answer to polarisation has been to strengthen consensus building among stakeholders, but such approaches are known to lead to alienation, tensions with existing democratic institutions, and an increasing gap with legal practice. CONTRA explores how institutionalising productive conflict can increase the transformative capacity needed in the transition towards more sustainable cities. Through a comparative study of urban planning law and practices focused on climate transition in 4 countries (Belgium; Netherlands; Norway and Poland), we study how conflict is handled and investigate the connection with political and legal institutions to determine whether conflict is suppressed or actively used for sustainable transformation. We also test new ways to handle conflict. CONTRA pioneers a new model of living labs (Drama Labs) that uses theatre-based methods to experiment with productive conflict. Combining empirical investigations with action research through the Drama Labs, CONTRA responds to topic 2 and 3 of the call by building capacities for urban transformation grounded in urban liveability, inclusivity, and active community engagement, as well as improving non-physical infrastructure such as governance and regulatory processes.

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  • Research Project

Capturing the unearned increment: urban planning, land value capture and financialization 01/11/2021 - 31/10/2023

Abstract

Infrastructural regeneration is key in today's cities, but taking action is often hampered by the scarcity of public resources on which it typically depends. Recently, policy and scholarship have put faith in land value capture (LVC) instruments to overcome this 'infrastructure gap'. Through such instruments, funds are acquired by recouping the increases in land values resulting from public actions. Though expected to bear fruit, LVC carries the risk of deepening the broadly studied adversities stemming from the 'financialization' of the city. In this research, I intend to bridge the gap between financialization and LVC literature by scrutinizing and comparing how LVC instruments affect planning processes and spatial outcomes in four international cases. Based on an institutionalist approach, I employ the Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) framework to understand for each case how the governance networks surrounding LVC instruments operate, and how financialization plays a part. In-depth interviews and document analysis will provide the data for the analysis. Afterwards, I compare the findings through qualitative comparative analysis. This research will result in a) a categorisation of key benefits and pitfalls following LVC practices and b) insights into how financialization occurs in LVC practice.

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  • Research Project

Implementation of innovative finance for nature based solutions in Flemish cities (INNOFINS) 01/10/2021 - 30/09/2025

Abstract

Flemish cities are expected to take a leading role in climate adaptation and mitigation strategies. At the core of these strategies are nature based solutions (NBS) by green, blue and hybrid urban infrastructures. NBS address multiple problems related to climate change in an integrated, sustainable way. Although investments in NBS infrastructures are considered a cost effective way to achieve future societal and environmental benefits, current public budgets in Flanders are insufficient. As a result, the gap between investments in and societal need for NBS is growing. In contrast to limited public budgets, there is an abundance of private capital seeking for investments. Yet, the potential to invest private capital in NBS is not fully exploited. NBS projects typically have sizeable upfront costs and diffuse and long-term societal benefits that are not easily captured in steady cash flows, making privately financed schemes often inappropriate. In order to attract private investments to NBS, new business models and alternative financing mechanisms are needed. In this project, we study the utilisation potential of innovative financing models in the Flemish context by developing real life business cases of NBS, using new instruments such as impact financing, value capturing and ICO-crowd funding. In order to develop a realistic and holistic interdisciplinary approach, this strategic research will study how new financial instruments impact planning and design, governance arrangements, valuation methods, legal institutions and instruments as well as social justice. The urban living lab approach will ensure continuous integrated assessment of the spatial, juridical, institutional, economic feasibility and social impact of the new financing business models, optimising the utilisation potential for the societal users.

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  • Research Project

Accelerating and upscaling transformational adaptation in Europe: demonstration of water-related innovation packages (TransformAr). 01/10/2021 - 30/09/2025

Abstract

Climate change impacts are here and now. The impacts on people, prosperity and planet are already pervasive but unevenly distributed, as stated in the new EU Blueprint strategy (European Commission-EC, 2019). To reduce climate-related risks, the EC and the IPCC agree that transformational adaptation is essential. The TranformAr project aims to develop and demonstrate products and services to launch and accelerate large-scale and disruptive adaptive process for transformational adaptation in vulnerable regions and communities across Europe. The 6 TransformAr lighthouse demonstrators face a common challenge: water-related risks and impacts of climate change. Based on existing successful initiatives, the project will develop, test and demonstrate solutions and pathways, integrated in Innovation Packages, in 6 territories.Transformational pathways, including an integrated risk assessment approach are co-developed by means of 9 Transformational Adaptive Blocks. A set of 22 tested actionable adaptive solutions are tested and demonstrated, ranging from nature-based solutions, innovative technologies, financing, insurance and governance models, awareness and behavioral change solutions. The project team, led by the University of Antwerp, gathers 22 partners from 11 countries and a well-balanced mix of sectoral and adaptation experts (5 RTOs and 1 SME), paired with 6 territories (4 local authorities and 2 charities), 8 additional solutions providers and 1 EU water-related NPO specialized that will support to structure a European Community of practice. Massive resilience increase and acceleration of transformation adaptation will be fostered by clustering various investors, testing bankable solutions, and defining viable (non-)commercial exploitation strategy for the TransformAr solutions, products and services.

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  • Research Project

Financing for urban development projects near the Antwerp ring road (research lab: financing) 01/06/2021 - 31/05/2023

Abstract

The research lab financing has a twofold purpose. The first aim of the research lab is to gain insight into the demand for financing and the financing available for the Antwerp region. This demand is compared with the financing capacity of the governments involved on the one hand, and the possibilities for alternative financing and income on the other. The second aim of the research lab is to gain insight into the social costs and benefits of the projects of the southern Antwerp ring-road that are not yet part of the decided policy, as well as uncertainties that can influence the costs and benefits over time. In the first phase, attention will be paid to the tunneling, after which the developed method can be further rolled out to the other projects. The uncertainties and development options are mapped out using a decision tree, to examine which development path is expected to yield the highest social net benefit, taking into account other projects or factors that may influence the tunneling projects.

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  • Research Project

InnoFiNS. Implementing innovative financing for nature-based solutions in Flemish cities. 01/12/2020 - 30/11/2024

Abstract

Flemish cities are expected to take a leading role in climate adaptation and mitigation strategies. At the core of these strategies are nature based solutions (NBS) by green, blue and hybrid urban infrastructures. NBS address multiple problems related to climate change in an integrated, sustainable way. Although investments in NBS infrastructures are considered a cost effective way to achieve future societal and environmental benefits, current public budgets in Flanders are insufficient. As a result, the gap between investments in and societal need for NBS is growing. In contrast to limited public budgets, there is an abundance of private capital seeking for investments. Yet, the potential to invest private capital in NBS is not fully exploited. NBS projects typically have sizeable upfront costs and diffuse and long-term societal benefits that are not easily captured in steady cash flows, making privately financed schemes often inappropriate. In order to attract private investments to NBS, new business models and alternative financing mechanisms are needed. In this project, we study the utilization potential of innovative financing models in the Flemish context by developing real life business cases of NBS, using new instruments such as impact financing, value capturing and ICO-crowd funding. In order to develop a realistic and holistic interdisciplinary approach, this strategic research will study how new financial instruments impact planning and design of NBS infrastructure. The urban living lab approach will ensure continuous integrated assessment of the spatial, juridical, institutional, economic feasibility and social impact of the new financing business models, optimising the utilisation potential for the societal users. This research project will be integrated in the SBO-FWO project Innofins if granted. The SEP grant will be used to finance the planning and design research track of the proposal and will finance a part time post doc to coordinate the living labs and to develop a new proposal for similar funding opportunities.

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  • Research Project

Real options for real urban projects. 01/11/2019 - 31/10/2023

Abstract

This interdisciplinary project aims to develop an innovative, approach for planning, design and decision making in complex spatial projects – e.g. transport infrastructure, urban development – and (urban) planning based on the real options theory from economics and finance. Contrary to the static rational model and "predict and control" approach, the real options approach offers a flexible way for coping with uncertainties through flexibility options that allow for project adjustments, making projects more adaptive to a dynamic and ever changing environment. However, a current theory-practice gap between real options theory and planning and design practice limits its practical value, accessibility, and applicability due to quantitative complexity and a lack of interference with real-life decision-making. Through the involvement of stakeholders and the use of pilot projects for the application of real options in Flanders, I will research the appropriate methods to tailor the real options theory to the needs of decision makers, planners, project managers, designers, etc. Throughout this project, (I) the research results will address several knowledge gaps in the existing literature on adaptive planning and design, real options theory and complex spatial projects; and (II) an accessible real options based framework (theories, tools, methods, models) will be developed to be used as a more flexible and adaptive approach in planning, design and decision-making.

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  • Research Project

Foreseeing Partnership. 22/04/2021 - 30/06/2021

Abstract

This study reports on the research trajectory, conducted by the Design Sciences Hub at the University of Antwerp, and discusses the vision for the transformation of the Mechelse Vesten from a traffic to a residential area. Based on a critical exploration of the current state of the project and the process, an 'expert advice' is developed to better and more broadly prepare - both the project management and the city council - for what is to come: in the short term the introduction of one-way/temporary interventions (2022) and in the longer term complete facade-to-facade redevelopment (2023-2029). To this end, lessons from international example projects are brought together from three angles: the critical success factors in radical urban transformations, anticipating uncertainties in project management, and building capacity for change through targeted participation processes. Weighed in with a critical analysis of contemporary Vests, these insights are then translated into a first pitch in order to shape a supported dream image together with the client, the City of Mechelen. The design is not only focused on the end result, but is above all a method for conducting the debate about the new Vesten, to formalize programming requirements, and to find a supported vision from the city council and other stakeholders.

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  • Research Project

Exploratory research regarding the establishment of a working group on financing liveability projects for the Antwerp ring road 23/11/2020 - 31/01/2021

Abstract

Assessment of the existing documents that quantify the expected costs and effects of the liveability projects near the Antwerp Ringroad. Presentation of a structured overview of the information available. Stakeholder analysis to assess the expectation of a possible future working group on financing. Implementation plan of a working group on financing.

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  • Research Project

Metrics for urban planning and design 16/12/2019 - 31/12/2020

Abstract

This research will conduct a literature study on metrics in urban planning and design. The metrics include figures and norms on urban densities and housing densities, urban green, parking norms and urban amenities.

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  • Research Project

Real options for real urban projects. 01/10/2019 - 30/09/2022

Abstract

This interdisciplinary project aims to develop an innovative approach for design and decision-making in complex spatial projects (CSPs) and (urban) planning based on the real options theory (ROT) from economics and finance. The real options approach offers a flexible way for coping with dynamic uncertainties and to make projects more adaptive to a dynamic and ever changing environment. CSPs are large-scale projects (e.g. transport and urban infrastructure) that require a high investment cost, take many years to develop and involve multiple public/private stakeholders. Decision makers have to face a great deal of uncertainties and risks in CSPs. Predicting future private and social costs and benefits is difficult, since they can be impacted by multiple interacting uncertainties. Managing uncertainties is therefore an important task in project management. However, dominant practices that support decision-making in CSPs are deficient and inflexible. Cost benefit analysis (CBA) and environmental impact assessments (EIA) do not properly take into account how uncertainties impact predictions that result in different future scenarios. Traditional risk management therefore tries to push out risks and uncertainties as much as possible through risk avoidance, risk reduction or shifting risks to other parties. In nine out of ten projects, costs are underestimated and/or benefits are overestimated. In the past two decades, ROT has increasingly been advocated as an alternative and flexible approach in fields such as energy planning and (transport) infrastructure. The ROT integrates the concepts of irreversible decision-making, uncertainty and flexibility in the decision analysis. ROT considers flexibility options ("real options") as valuable to deal with multiple uncertainties. Instead of making every decision based on possibly inaccurate forecasts early in a project, keeping flexibility options alive can help a project better to adapt to possible future changes. This requires identifying and monitoring uncertainties and risks, rather than pushing them out, along with identifying flexibility options as responses to these uncertainties. ROT is a quantitative approach using methods and models that allow to quantify flexibility options' value, as well as determining the optimal timing (future scenario) for exercising options. It not only helps to better protect projects against possible downside losses, but also allow projects to capture the upside value of strategic and better balanced decisions References of real options applications in planning and design remain however limited. Furthermore, its proven (theoretical) potential and increasing popularity are in contrast to its lacking practical value, leading to a gap between real option theory and planning and design. We identified three sources for this gap in our review paper on real options applications in transport infrastructure and megaprojects: (I) simplification of case-studies leads to a simplification of the complex reality in which projects are planned, neglecting multiple interacting uncertainties and embedded flexibility options; (II) quantitative real options methods require (advanced) mathematical knowledge which decision makers often lack; and (III) real options applications lack interaction with practitioners from the field. How to bridge the real options planning/design gap? How to turn real options' theoretical methods and models into practical relevant methods and tools for CSPs and planning processes? Our main goal is to develop a ROT based framework – in cooperation with experts and practitioners from CSPs in Flanders – for adaptive planning that allows to better identify, assess, manage and monitor uncertainties and flexibility options in CSPs. This will help improve decision making and planning practices in Flanders, by making CSPs more adaptive and robust in a dynamic and complex environment.

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  • Research Project

Real options for real complex urban projects. 01/07/2018 - 31/12/2019

Abstract

This interdisciplinary project aims to develop a conceptual frame and a tool for dealing with risks in complex urban projects, based on real options theory from economics Urban designers and decision makers in urban projects face a great deal of uncertainty in the design and management of complex urban projects. As the time lap between design and implementation can take more than one or two decades, their designs have to be adaptable and flexible to cope with future uncertainties. In the practice of design and management of complex project the common approach however is still to ignore, contain or minimize risks. The Nobel prize wining idea on real options provide a novel and formal approach to risk and uncertainty. Instead of focusing on risk as a loss, this theory puts focus on the value of flexibility as a way to deal with multiple types of uncertainty. It provides formal tools to assess the value of future options. Based on the theory of real options, we develop a novel conceptual frame and relevant approach for complex urban projects. The conceptual frame will be applied to the case study of the covering of the ring road in Antwerpen

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  • Research Project

Expert commission Flemish Architect 01/02/2018 - 31/12/2019

Abstract

The Flemish Architect is developing a new instrument for a quick scan of the spatial policy of municipalities in order to create a shift to a more sustainable spatial development. The university of Antwerp will evaluate this instrument and make proposals for improvements

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  • Research Project

Analysis of (international) examples of infrastructure projects related to urban development. 01/01/2018 - 30/03/2018

Abstract

In the context of the exploration of the complex project Noordzuidverbinding Limburg, 'comparable' best practices of infrastructure design are being studied with similar problems and scope (eg. new road infrastructure in a more or less urbanized environment), which was fully or at least partially realized.

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  • Research Project

Green-blue networks in Flanders 19/10/2017 - 18/10/2019

Abstract

The aim of the assignment is firstly to define, on the basis of sound scientific argumentation from literature, a definition of the concept of green-blue networks supported by all partners, based on the objectives of biodiversity, climate and quality of life. Based on this definition, the existing green-blue network and the potential for expansion and qualitative reinforcement will be mapped and visualised. The final part of the assignment consists of research by design, in which the elaboration of concrete cases, aims to put the theory into practice.

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  • Research Project

CITYLAB CAR: Engaging students in sustainable Caribbean Cities. 01/10/2017 - 30/09/2020

Abstract

The CITYLAB project aims to stimulate innovation in teaching in higher education through problem-based learning in the Caribbean, to make higher education institutes and students better prepared to deal with contemporary urban problems and challenges. Problem-based learning is a proven innovative approach for introducing real-world problems in the education program with huge possibilities to transform the quality of learning and teaching. It is a kind of active, integrated and constructive learning method that works from a student centered approach and emphasizes on learning to learn and learning by doing, and breaks with traditional teaching methods, which are still the dominant educational methods used in the Caribbean higher education institutes.

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  • Research Project
  • Education Project

Francqui Chair 2016-2017 Prof. Andy van den Dobbelsteen. 01/10/2016 - 30/09/2017

Abstract

Proposed by the University, the Francqui Foundation each year awards two Francqui Chairs at the UAntwerp. These are intended to enable the invitation of a professor from another Belgian University or from abroad for a series of ten lessons. The Francqui Foundation pays the fee for these ten lessons directly to the holder of a Francqui Chair.

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  • Research Project

Bicycle Oriented Development (BOD) A spatial tool for improving the bikeability of urban corridors. 01/07/2016 - 31/12/2017

Abstract

This research aims to provide insight into the factors that determine the 'bikeability' of our cities and indicate how we can improve the cycling conditions and the physical environment of the cyclist. In a first phase, the research aims to outline a fundamental method to define the spatial factors that determine the routes of cyclists (safety, comfort, obstacles, amenities,...). The existing literature is questioned and supplemented by a case study research along three bicylce corridors in the city of Antwerp. Supported by the Institute of Transport of the TUDelft (prof. Kees Maat), the routes of cyclists are identified and queried via GIS software and bike riders equiped with data applications. The results are combined with spatial cartographic research and supplemented by interviews with key stakeholders (cyclists, selection of local residents, city of Antwerp, Antwerp province, AWV). In the second phase of the investigation, formulated on the basis of parameters defining bikeability, research by design visualizes spatial interventions that can improve the bikeability along these corridors. With stakeholders, a co-creation process is started, in which the draft design proposals are discussed and improved during joint design sessions. The findings of this iterative design research on three different case studies (Turnhoutsebaan, Mechelsesteenweg and Singel cycle track) are distilled into design guidelines that can fundamentally improve the bikeability of cities.

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  • Research Project

Development strategy for a network of liveable villages. 01/01/2016 - 31/12/2017

Abstract

Villages currently face challenges such as aging, decreasing services and amenities, poor quality housing, limited public transport, erosion of social cohesion .... Due to these developments, the quality of life in villages is highly pressurized. However, a good living environment remains important for coexistence and the "well being" of its residents. This research provides a practical framework for village development, in order to improve the quality of life, illustrating different solutions and their consequences. A practical framework will be developed for different policy areas (housing, care, services, labor, agriculture) with a correlating set of indicators and a development tool box.

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  • Research Project

CITYLABS: Engaging Students with Sustainable Cities in Latin-America 15/10/2015 - 14/10/2018

Abstract

The CITYLAB project aims to enhance the quality of higher education institutions in Latin America through Problem Based Learning (PBL) which is a proven innovative approach for introducing real-world problems in the education program and entails huge possibilities to transform the quality of learning and teaching. It is a kind of active, integrated and constructive learning method that works from a student centered approach and emphasizes on learning to learn and learning by doing, and breaks with traditional teaching methods such as ex-cathedra lectures. In order to introduce and spread PBL, it is required to work on specific problems through multidisciplinary approaches.

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  • Research Project
  • Education Project

The Land and Housing Survey in a Global sample of Cities. 17/08/2015 - 17/12/2015

Abstract

The UAntwerpen contributes to the land and Housing survey, organized by UN Habitat. The goal is to assess planning systems in cities and housing conditions in a sample of cities throughout the world. Antwerpen has been selected in the sample

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  • Research Project

Governance of land use. 01/08/2015 - 15/09/2015

Abstract

This research aims to compare planning systems in different countries, regadering their use and impact. UAntwerpen acts as respondent for the survey on the Flemish planning system as a subcontractant for the OECD

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  • Research Project

Mainstreaming Energy Efficiency and Climate Change in Build Environment Training and Research in the Caribbean (CarEnTrain). 01/06/2014 - 31/03/2017

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the University of West Indies. UA provides the University of West Indies research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

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  • Research Project

Governance of municipalities and provinces: towards a new form of inter-relationships around spatial policy. 07/11/2013 - 06/08/2014

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the Flemish Public Service. UA provides the Flemish Public Service research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

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  • Research Project

Flanders in Action - Towards a sustainable and creative city. 15/10/2013 - 31/03/2014

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the Flemish Public Service. UA provides the Flemish Public Service research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

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  • Research Project

Pilot Project 'Active Citizen Participation' site Normaalschool-De Kluis. 01/10/2013 - 31/12/2014

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand city of Lier. UA provides city of Lier research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

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  • Research Project

Strengthening the current Bsc. Programme Construction Engineering and infrastructure of the University of Suriname and feasibility study for the extension of the Bsc. Programme into a regional Msc. Programme in Urban Design. 01/10/2013 - 31/08/2014

Abstract

Strengthening the current Bsc. Programme Construction Engineering and infrastructure of the University of Suriname and feasibility study for the extension of the Bsc. Programme into a regional Msc. Programme in Urban Design Collaborative engineering experiences in international teams.

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  • Research Project

Responding to demographic challenges: capacity issues, amenities, sensible management (of claims) on scarce space in the context of a growing city. 01/10/2013 - 31/12/2013

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand KVS. UA provides KVS research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

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  • Research Project

Spatial and societal gain (in the context of supporting research for the PPP-trajectory. 23/09/2013 - 31/12/2013

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the Flemish Public Service. UA provides the Flemish Public Service research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract. This project studies the extent to which public private partnerships can lead to more quality, added value in terms of economic, ecological and social benefits, and how this materialises in the complex multi-level partnerships which are prevailing in Flanders (local, regional and European).

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  • Research Project

Operation and effectiveness of GECORO in Flanders. 01/06/2012 - 01/12/2013

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand VRP. UA provides VRP research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

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  • Research Project

Policy Research Centre Sustainable Space Flanders (2012-2015). 01/01/2012 - 31/12/2015

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the Flemish Public Service. UA provides the Flemish Public Service research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

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  • Research Project