The Knowledge Centre on Healthy Urban Living starts on 12 November 2013. This Dutch centre delivers integrated knowledge that will enable people to live long, healthy, and independent lives in clean, sustainable, and prosperous cities.

This new knowledge centre represents the collective expertise of five well-known Dutch organisations (TNO, RIVM, KNMI, Utrecht University and Deltares). Its goal is to find solutions to the complex issues facing urban areas today. The Centre’s target group ranges from local and national government organisations, to businesses and members of the public, both in the Netherlands and elsewhere.

Some examples of persistent urban problems are unhealthy lifestyles, unsafe situations in residential areas, and poor quality of air, soil, and surface water, as well as inconvenience caused by heavy rainfall. These issues occur where healthy living and urban development intersect, and at the interface between sustainability and economic development. The search for effective solutions to these complex issues will require knowledge and data to be combined and used in the context of an integrated approach. Current efforts in this area are far too fragmented.

The essence of integrated knowledge development is to combine research (plus the various measuring and monitoring programmes) with databases and models on healthy, sustainable cities. This new form of cooperation gives researchers immediate access to 80 percent of the requisite data. The aim is to add the remaining data within just a few years, and to make the entire resource accessible in a coherent and user-friendly way. The knowledge centre will also develop a joint research programme, which is expected to be launched in March 2014.

This will initially be funded from the five partners’ individual research resources. Funds are also being raised for research with regional partners, such as local and provincial authorities. Finally, funding is being sought from European innovation programmes and incentive funds. Integrated research saves money by ensuring that different groups are not researching the same topic. In addition, the results obtained will provide a firm foundation for future-proof decisions, by preventing the introduction of measures that are either difficult to implement or impossible to enforce. The knowledge centre’s aim in pursuing these activities is to contribute to Utrecht’s development as a knowledge-intensive region in the field of Healthy Urban Living.