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Project on sustainable urban logistics (GLEAM NSR) kicks off

26 January 2024
The kick-off of the project GLEAM NSR at University of Groningen's House of Connections

All partners in the project GLEAM NSR, led by the University of Groningen, met this week for the official kick-off at the university’s House of Connections. The project focuses on the role of governance towards just and green urban logistics. The EU funds the project within the framework of the Interreg North Sea programme. In this project, sustainable logistics expert Paul Buijs is one of the representatives of the University of Groningen.  

As cities increasingly recognize the urgency of sustainable transformation, they are moving from setting ambitious policy goals to taking action. Paul Buijs (associate professor at UG’s Faculty of Economics and Business): “This shift reveals inherent tensions, as environmental stewardship and social inclusion need to be in balance with economic prosperity. Logistics is among the various facets that cities need to navigate in this transition.” The GLEAM NSR project specifically elevates the role of SMEs in urban logistics, working towards governance structures that support their transition in the evolving landscape of urban logistics. 

Enhancing digital capacities

Digitization is another important aspect. Currently, the digitization level in logistics is low, posing significant challenges for both businesses and local governments. This lack of digital maturity hinders a comprehensive understanding of logistics operations within cities, making it difficult to develop and implement effective, data-driven action plans. The gap in digital capabilities impairs the ability to make informed decisions that could foster more sustainable and efficient urban logistics systems. By enhancing digital capabilities, GLEAM NSR aims to provide both the private sector and local governments with the insights necessary to navigate and optimise the urban logistics landscape, aligning it with broader sustainability objectives.

The challenge of adapting to new policies

The fact that the urban logistics landscape is predominantly composed of SMEs complicates the sustainable transformation, particularly when cities lack a clear view on who these SMEs are. This is compounded by the fact that, unlike their larger counterparts, SMEs are often absent in urban planning discussions and struggle to adapt to new policies due to limited financial and human resources. This situation not only threatens the sustainability of these smaller businesses but also affects the economic diversity and resilience of urban areas.

In response to the complex challenge of urban logistics, cities have initiated experiments to explore more sustainable logistics solutions. Efforts such as facilitating and using consolidation hubs, parcel lockers, cargo bikes, and the implementation of low-emission and time-access-restricted zones have been instrumental in paving the way towards reducing the negative impact of logistics in urban areas. These experiments have been relatively modest and could benefit from policy and regulatory frameworks to ensure their widescale and long-term adoption. There is a growing realisation that these initial steps, while valuable, need significant scaling up and broader integration to accelerate the transition towards truly sustainable and liveable cities.

The project consortium

GLEAM NSR is an interdisciplinary project led by the University of Groningen, on behalf of the university, the Faculty of Economics and Business and the Faculty of Spatial Sciences are both involved. The project consortium further includes 5 local authorities (Aarhus, Le Havre Seine Metropole, Leuven, Mechelen and Rotterdam), 2 policy partners (LNC and Copenhagenize), 2 industry partners (VIL and SMEunited), and 1 other knowledge partner (University of Gothenburg).

Questions? Please contact Paul Buijs or Ward Rauws.

Last modified:26 January 2024 10.31 a.m.

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