Community Challenges

The course provides knowledge on innovative processes and innovative thinking as a tool to solve need-based problems in interdisciplinary teams. With the application of game design, the task for the student groups is to create solutions promoting changes in health behaviours and in health care. The course focuses on the four pillars of learning; critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity.


This interdisciplinary course will give you an increased understanding of the complex relationships between health, environment, and climate change. This will also incorporate sustainable cities and well-being.

The course aims at increasing knowledge about the psychosocial aspects of cardiovascular disease. The course content will cover causes of mental illness in cardiovascular disease and psychological treatments in this setting. Risk factor management is a major challenge for both primary and secondary prevention and it is, to a large extent, behavioural. Several models for how behaviour can be influenced will be discussed during the course. Some cardiac conditions have special behavioural challenges which will also be discussed in the course. Finally, inequalities when it comes to cardiac risk factors and cardiac rehabilitation, e.g. due to sex, socioeconomic status and mental health, will be covered in this course.


The course presents water resource management in sustainable cities. Introduction to challenges and sustainable adaptation measures for drinking water supply and wastewater as well as stormwater management, with focus on treatment, distribution and collection systems.

Management of urban heat islands – role of micro forests in urban settings, education and understanding related to climate change and pollution, urban well-being.

This multidisciplinary experimental forest project, which is located on university ground which was formerly the Floirac Observatory. The project aims to monitor the responses of urban forests to climate change, as well as their impact on environmental health and well-being in the city, ecophysiology with prospects for land use planning. The research lead for this experimental forest project is Sylvain Delzon (Lab- UMR Bioegeco).

Objectives of the experimental forest

in situ monitoring of the experimental forest

analysis of biodiversity and ecosystem services

development in connection with the PPE pole of infrastructures for the forest

development for teaching and reception of schoolchildren and showcase and citizen science projects.

Partners: the local Regional academy group - Agir Ensemble – has engaged with the potential of this urban forest living-lab. A first working session planned at the end of May was unfortunately postponed to August due to extreme weather conditions. However partners have already proposed and are discussing projects based on the potential of this forest in the city. The emerging projects can be consulted here.

ENLIGHT the challenges that emerge include management of urban heat islands – monitoring (captors and sensors for this purpose), development of cool islands, impact study of micro forests.

The objective: Ghent climate-robust by 2030

Climate change makes Ghent vulnerable to more and more intense heat waves, more extreme showers and longer droughts. That is also felt today. We must prepare our city for these change: keep them pleasant, liveable, healthy and safe for our residents, institutions and businesses. We have set an ambitious goal from the City: by 2030 we want to be climate-robust. One of the objectives is to make the underground of Ghent work like a sponge. A rain shower that occurs once every 20 years may not cause damage to buildings, roads or other urban infrastructure in Ghent, now and in the future.

Water and greenery needs more space in the city

Source measures are the most effective and most beneficial in the long term to intervene proactive on the consequences of climate change. This means that we must limit paving to the functional minimum, provide space for greenery and retain rainwater on site in winter as much as possible. are asking for more space for water and greenery at plot level, street level and neighbourhood le These measures are very drastic in a city where the competition for space is very high and many different societal challenges have to be tackled simultaneously.

For example, we aim to pave the public domain by 15% less during the integral redevelopment. However, it is not easy for designers to balance the spatial questions linked to all kinds of societal challenges. We also set the bar high for new urban development projects. Keeping maximum precipitation in place requires at least 7% of the draining surface. Here too, this will require a creative design of the environment and the buildings in order to balance space for water and greenery.

Ghent is working on the implementation of the vision memorandum 'Water in the City', which was drawn up together with De Vlaamse Waterweg (a Flemish agency responsible for rivers and canals. A number of thematic projects from 'Water in the City' contribute to climate adaptation, such as drawing up an integrated plan for the public domain with a vision on the integration of green and water elements that contribute to the sponge effect of the city and the drawing up of a rainwater plan, with a clear, coherent and future-oriented vision on (rain)water in the city.

Ghent is also finalising a 'drought action plan' that will give guidance on how to act fast and effec1 in order to tackle drought issues related to climate change.

Today, education is often locked up in a building. This is strange because there is a lot to learn outside of those specially designed buildings. So let's reframe this and see what opportunities there are to learn in the city. Where did we learn as a child? By walking around, playing, just doing things, start a small business, make friends, argue, build camps, organize parties or sport competitions. Let's dream!

We have to look at our multicultural, historic cities in a very positive and promising way. There are so many learning moments that can be linked to the experience of the city. There is an offer in terms ofWe have to look at our multicultural, historic cities in a very positive and promising way. There are so many learning moments that can be linked to the experience of the city. There is an offer in terms ofculture, shops, sports, heritage, nature and all this in a very authentic setting.

On the other hand: the city as a powerful learning environment is not new. ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ is an African proverb that means that an entire community of people must interact with children in order for those children to experience and grow in a safe and healthy environment. Even though we are tired of hearing this saying, the meaning behind it has never been so strong and so topical during de covid 19 epidemic. More than ever, we need each other to take care of children and youngsters. More than ever it is up to families, employers, childcare, schools, youthwork, sports, schools, communities to join forces, show understanding and support each other as one strong learning team.

The city as a powerful learning environment connects education with (voluntary) work or local business, with the neighborhood and with forms of research.

Some important findings from the speed you up project we did:

  • Connect with young people: what do they like, what gives them energy, what moves them? Intrinsic motivation is key because this leads to better chances of success. This links nicely to well-being because it is about success experience and internal motivation to learn and face challenges.
  • Participation of young people from the very beginning of the school career, of projects. They too have clear ideas, manners and are the future of our city.
  • Is a cooperation between different educational levels = bringing together different skills = equivalence
  • Is working in multidisciplinary teams of students, young people , teachers, researchers, local residents, professionals, local stakeholders
  • Contributes to solutions for needs and signals from a neighbourhood, a city.
  • Is related to competences, skills, talents of young people (broader than cognitive skills).
  • Opens the school gate to the neighbourhood and let the neighbourhood in the school (Community School, Broad Learning and Living Environment). Living labs, hubs etc.

From our experiences it often appears that teachers and pupils are enthusiastic about the projects which propagate the idea of a broad learning and living environment. What is often lacking are time and space to actually integrate these projects into the educational practice (another way of learning, learning by doing, start projects…)

Teachers and students and partners are often enthusiastic about the projects and see the added value, but:

  • To establish that principals, teachers, pupils are indeed convinced that a different way of learning and a different place of learning is highly necessary. This observation, this support, can be a clearer signal to the policy and hopefully give the time and space to effectively approach things differently.
  • This is about modular, more flexible, alternating individual and group learning with a coach. Certainly in Secondary Education, we must move towards more hybrid and modular forms of learning for young people, which would benefit from this better in terms of learning than now strictly linear and the same for everyone at the same time. We would like to link this to the digital and distance learning experiences during the covid 19 epidemic.
  • Working together, indeed, requires extra time to get to know each other, to make expectations and commitments clear. For example: social-artistic projects work with what they get from the children and young people in the classroom and therefore do not have a predetermined end goal. Teachers ask almost immediately what the result will be. It takes a lot of preparation to harmonise the two and to speak the same language.
  • We need an engaged policy, in which a more flexible approach can be taken to a timetable of lessons, in which work can be done more across subjects and school walls, in which there is also a clear link with the competences and skills to be acquired, in which teachers have less to deal with in terms of administrative tasks, ...

In this challenge you can start from two frameworks.

  1. The first: a school that wants to open the doors to the city: the students go to the city and the city enters the school. We call this a community school.
  2. A second is more radical and abandons the idea of a school as an exclusive learning place. Where in the city can you see learning opportunities? Can innovative ideas be conceived from this framework? What do you learn on the street? In the shop? From each other? From work? …

The expectations for students who take up this challenge are very diverse and open, so surprise us! Start from this challenge: how can we shape our city into a powerful learning environment? How can we create different strong teams throughout the city by optimally deploying the diversity and versatility of know-how and inspiring places and allowing them to interact with each other?

We look forward to the creative proposals that will arise from this. And don't forget Pippi Langkous said: “I have never tried that before, so I think I should definitely be able to do that.”― Astrid Lindgren.

Infectious diseases caused by pathogens (bacteria, viruses, fungi) are undoubtedly a rising threat to public health very much linked to the impact of environmental exposures. The multiple paths ofpathogens transmission can lead to the exponential spread of infectious diseases, leading to apandemic. The current COVID-19 pandemic is already the sixth pandemic in the current century, afterthose originated by HIV-AIDS (starting in 1981 but lasting until today), the H1N1 flu virus (2009), SARS(2002), the ebola virus (2014) and MERS (2015). This, together with the increasing bacterial resistance to antibiotics, suggests that current canonical treatment methods (antibiotics or vaccination) need reinforcement through reliable frontline diagnostic tools to raise an alert of eventual risk to public health. It will only in this way be possible to keep the health system prepared against future pandemics.

Also, the resistance of bacteria to antibiotics increases the risk of foodborne diseases (e.g.Salmonella, Listeria), creating severe concerns in public health worldwide. On top of that, theacceleration at which foodstuffs move through the distribution chain worldwide is another serious concern. Thus, the world health authorities and the global food industry seek to ensure consumers'food safety.

The potential for the application of digitalisation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies in the areaof public health is broad and still not sufficiently exploited. Part of the solution to the challenge ofincreasing the speed and reaction capacity to the current or future infectious diseases, will most probably come from the digitalization, with a special focus on digital simulation to support decision making and AI application to health management.

The collaboration between research groups belonging to the Donostia International Physics Centre (DIPC) on the one hand, and University of the Basque Country (UPV-EHU) on the other, will result onthe development of new research and education programmes that may contribute to tackle this challenge. The key enabling technologies based on photonics may enable, for example, the prevention of infectious diseases through accelerated optimization of advanced diagnostic methods to contribute to tackling the aforemention challenge.

The conventional detection technique relies on expensive equipment, specialized sample preparation,and slow data output. Indeed, the miniaturization of devices allowed for the reduction of sample amount, fasten results outcome, leading to the development of point-of-care devices of facile use andaccessibility to many citizens. Still, the optimization of new diagnostic tools is too slow to face the accelerating rate at which new outbreaks emerge.This is where digitalization can help to tackle the issue. For example, researchers focus on developing. This is where digitalization can help to tackle the issue. For example, researchers focus on developing robotic systems capable of handling liquids, controlling flow, and performing evaluation in real-time,enabling fast and automated readout. The large amount of data needs classification to extract meaningful information and to build a valuable knowledge. Machine learning algorithms are withoutany doubt excellent tools to handle large amount of data, offering today excellent means to predict inreal-time the outcome of the optimization processes.

But having robotic systems and machine learning to analyze data is not sufficient to face today's publichealth issues. These two disciplines need to be linked through the so-called closed-loopexperimentation: an algorithm learns from experimental results and constructs a model to hypothesize about the next experimental step.

To close, the current Edisonian approach to optimize diagnostic tools requires up to ten years of fundamental and applied research to reach the market. The digitalization of health-oriented laboratories can revolutionize the way the diagnostic methods are being optimized, and empowering such optimization with artificial intelligence will enable faster development of new technologies andthus prevent future pandemics.

Expected results of this collaboration can be summarized under two principal action lines:

  • Joint collaborative research and innovation projects aiming at responding to different scientific and technological specific sub-challenges:

As an example, one of the projects currently ongoing (INFECTON) works on the the central hypothesis that known biomarkers for detection of bacterial infectious – enzymes - can be exploited for the detection of viral infection in COVID-19. The general objective of the INFECTON project is to construct a workflow comprising computational chemistry and physics, nanochemistry, robotics and machine learning to demonstrate that colourimetric sensor based on nanoparticles and DNA technology is capable of detecting coronavirus-associated nucleases.The outcome of the INFECTON project will deliver new detection means for corona virus that is orthogonal to the existing tests available in the market. Up to date, there is no feasible tests for COVID-19 based on detection of nucleases. Aiding the biochemical sensor development by computer visionon robotic platform and machine learning model will eradicate the problem with tedious process of sensor optimization (selectivity and sensitivity). The proposed workflow here will not only allow the development a reliable sensor for current coronavirus, but will also serve as a tool in the optimization of sensors for future mutations of corona viruses. Thus, the outcome of the INFECTON project will deliver a new inter disciplinary workflow for fast adaptation to the new outbreaks.

  • New education and training offer for university students.

The ongoing project has already lead the partners to launch new Research and development projects and the development of specialized higher education programmes in the area of Photonics in collaboration with other ENLIGHT partners like, for example, the University of Bordeaux.

Students from the Physics degree of the University of the Basque Country and from master LAPHIA of the University of Bordeaux will have the opportunity to do some visits and internships in the labs of the Basque community of photonics like the DIPC. These internships may provide students at different stages of their specialization curricula (bachelor degree students, master students and pre-doctoral students) with hands on experience in research projects focused on addressing some of the aforementioned scientific objectives. The methodology will combine experiments based learning and challenge based problem solving, based on the scientific methodologies in direct contact with worldclass level researchers.


The main objective is the design and development of a creative platform (Living Lab) with activities and solutions that encourage the local economy and culture towards a sustainable specialization in Urdaibai’s Biosphere Reserve- Basque Country, listed as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.


To achieve a “plastic free” environment in UBR that encourages the emergence of new sustainable and circular economy opportunities for this area involving end users: citizens, local businesses, etc.

Context and framework

The Urdaibai estuary where the UBR is located is a natural area formed by the mouth of the River Oka, that occupies a surface area of 220 km² and has impressive ecological assets that have allowed it to be listed as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Gernika represents the most important urban centre in Urdaibai.The Biosphere Reserve law establishes a set of sustainability measures that reinforce the scientific, cultural and recreational importance of this type of territory and at the same establish very specific frameworks for its development.The UBR is a reference for environmental sustainability and represents a great added value for the territory and its citizens. However, due to its regulatory framework, it is an important challenge to incorporate this territory into the logic of competitiveness, specialization and sustainable development promoted by local administrations.The aim is to identify needs and opportunities that consider the particular regulatory context of this protected area in order to contribute to its coherent integration into local policies for sustainable development and competitiveness.

Main expected actions are:

  • Leverage and mobilize existing creative solutions (enabling technologies) to not only address the challenge of plastic pollution, but to transform it into a resource for the creation of new creative and green business models.
  • Leveraging and mobilizing new creative solutions / technologies / methods / cutting-edge services to support the creation of a creative circular economy model in the Urdaibai environment.• Leveraging and mobilizing new creative solutions / technologies / methods / cutting-edge services to support the creation of a creative circular economy model in the Urdaibai environment.
  • Reinforcement of citizen science crowdsourcing models through the collection and publication of data on possible interventions in the circular economy.

Upcoming project engaging several community stakeholders

Upcoming project engaging several community stakeholders:Since 2018, GAIA has been one of the agents proposing real challenges within the framework of the intensive training itinerary based on blue economy challenges proposed by the Ocean i3 educational innovation project which is developed in collaboration between the University of the Basque Country, the University of Bordeaux and Euskampus Fundazioa.Based on the collaboration of more than 3 years with the Ocean i3 project, the development of this challenge can relay in a first circle of stakeholders and learning community by the involvement of the Ocean i3 enlarged community (students, teachers, researchers and public and private territorial social agents) participating in Ocean i3 in order to promote transdisciplinary and collaborative learning, research and intervention projects that are integrated into the dynamics of the UBR Creative Living Lab.


The activities could be classified into 5 main axes:

  1. Skills, education and research: Creative and Sustainable skills development
  2. Development / Integration of creative solutions (Technology)
  3. Business support and financing
  4. Promotion, awareness and public participation
  5. Policy and regulation

Promoting partners

  • GAIA: ICT cluster in the Basque Country, driver of the Ozean Lab and expert in citizen engagement and Living Lab methodology
  • Rivages ProTECH: develops environmental monitoring technologies to compile data for better decision making
  • Gernika-Lumo Municipality: Gernika represents the most important urban centre in Urdaibai. The Gernika-Lumo’s council is committed to the field of new technologies as a vector for social cohesion and integration and developing opportunities for advancement for all who have something to contribute to the culture, economy or coexistence
  • Ocean i3 project: mobilizes an annual average of 45 undergraduate and postgraduate students and their faculty mentors from 16 different disciplines coming from 2 universities (University of the Basque Country and University of Bordeaux) and at least 25 public and private stakeholders. This enlarged community works in teams to contribute to challenges from cross boarder Basque Country and New Aquitaine regions’ blue economy.

The four-day meeting partly consists of workplace visits and partly by group work in the Innovation House at the Dutch Embassy.

During the meeting students will work on a challenge provided by the organization, dealing with digital innovation in health and welfare. This could be provided by the embassy or by one or more corporate partners in Sweden that want to sponsor the event.

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