Tilburg University and the City of Tilburg develop joint broad prosperity research program

On July 11, 2023, Tilburg University and the City of Tilburg have adopted a roadmap for a co-creative research program in the field of broad prosperity in the local communities and broad prosperity in business. This research program is part of the agreement between the City and the university to take cooperation to an even higher level. For instance, the parties contribute to Tilburg Kennisstad and to the movement to help the city-with-a-university develop into a proper university city.

Broad prosperity is not only about economic prosperity, but also about other aspects that people, now and in the future, find valuable in life, including the quality of nature and the environment, education, public health, poverty, and safety. In sum, it is about properity in a broad sense. 

Knowledge with impact: Practical answers and solutions 

Through the research program, the university and the City will, in the next five years, invest in finding science-based answers and solutions to the social challenges in our city, villages, and region. Examples include transitions in climate and energy, digitalization, mobility, health, labor market, and social security.

Broad prosperity is central in thinking and action, whereby different disciplines and types of expertise come together. Under the umbrella of the two research pathways of broad prosperity in the local communities and broad prosperity in business, we will start up with a number of themes. The basis was the 2022-2026 Tilburg Coalition Agreement Meer voor elkaar ("Getting more done") and Tilburg University’s strategy, Weaving Minds & Characters. 

The objective of the research program is to bring science and practice closer together and to generate positive impact with the knowledge acquired in the city, in villages, and in the region. We will also develop knowledge that can be used for new issues and challenges. The added value of this partnership is the scientific approach to such social issues as: How can we increase broad prosperity in the local communities? How can the City stimulate this, together with social partners? How can we monitor this? With this knowledge, the City of Tilburg can strenghten its approach, to achieve more consistent and structural improvements of the liveability and safety in the local communities and thus increase the wellbeing of residents. 

This approach is linked to the University-wide Academic Collaborative Centers of Tilburg University. In the context of these Academic Collaborative Centers, knowledge and applications are developed, through the connecting theme of broad prosperity and in co-creation with partners, that contribute to the social transitions that are necessary for a future-proof world. The approach is also linked to the role of the Tilburg University City Professor , the current incumbent being Ton Wilthagen. The parties see a crucial relationship with developments, for instance, in the field of governance of networks and Tilburg’s transition targets towards 2050. 

Implementing the joint research program 

The university and the City already collaborate in many different ways. The joint research program on Broad Prosperity pools and strengthens these initiatives. The first step in the co-creative research program is to link questions to the right areas of expertise (matching) and to frame a joint research proposal. City employees will be matched with university researchers, making sure there is a diversity in types of projects, for instance, on knowledge transfer, student challenges, and the involvement of students and young researchers. The first research projects are scheduled to start in January 2024. 

Esmah Lahlah (Education) of the City of Tilburg Executive: "Of course, there are already several great projects and collaborative initiatives underway between the university and the City. And although the results are promising, we observe that they are often isolated and one-off projects, resulting from one-on-one contacts between the City and a specific Department or area of expertise or an individual researcher. Both the City and the university have expressed the wish for more in-depth collaboration, which will now materialize in, among other things, a joint, long-term, and co-creative program. In this way, we create mutual commitment and we bring practice and science closer together. So this is about policy and especially implementation with impact." 

Vice-Rector Magnificus Jantine Schuit of Tilburg University: "We are very pleased to be able to start this research program together with the City of Tilburg, further strengthening and broadening our partnership. In this research program, the social challenges we are facing in our region are studied from various perspectives. We not only strive to find answers, but also want to maximize our contribution. Our university-wide Academic Collaborative Centers on Governance and Management for Wellbeing, Climate & Energy, Inclusive Labor Market, and Digital Health & Mental Wellbeing were already underway and this program is a tremendous boost. I have every confidence in this powerful partnership and in the socially relevant answers and solutions we will come up with for our region in the next five years."