Co-creating sustainability: Cross-sector university collaborations for driving sustainable urban transformations

Gregory P. Trencher, Masaru Yarime, Ali Kharrazi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

100 Citations (Scopus)


This paper attempts to 'connect the dots' between several cases and provide a comprehensive global analysis of the trend of universities reaching across campus boundaries to form partnerships with government, industry and civic organisations to drive an urban sustainability transformation.We refer to this emerging and possibly new academic function as 'co-creation for sustainability'. Our paper consists of three sections. In the first, we interpret this academic trend from a sociohistorical perspective based on previous social contributions of the university. Secondly, we conduct a macro-level empirical analysis based upon 27 partnerships from Asia, Europe, the Middle East and North America. Here we propose a framework for analysing and comparing key characteristics and commonalties across a large range of cases. We then supplement this with a micro-level study of two cases from Switzerland and the USA (2000 Watt Society Pilot Region Basel programme by Novatlantis and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) domain and Rust to Green Utica by Cornell University). Here we examine closer the specific characteristics, processes, key outcomes and challenges encountered in each partnership. It is expected that this study can provide a valuable contribution to what is potentially a new area of academic research and a powerful way of advancing urban sustainability transformations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)40-55
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Publication statusPublished - 2013 Jul 1
Externally publishedYes


  • Co-creation
  • Collaboration
  • Partnership
  • Sustainability
  • University
  • Urban transformation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Strategy and Management
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


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