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A joint long term research strategy on smart regions

a milestone further’

The ECIU University Research Institute for Smart European Regions (SMART-ER) has started at the beginning of last year, and is halfway through implementation. When the participants get together in December, the glass will be raised. ‘Then we are a milestone further and quite a long way towards reaching some results.’

Text: Peter Koehorst
Photo: Dublin City University


Pádraig Murphy of the Dublin City University is closely involved with SMART-ER, which is a strong alliance focused on research, innovation and education. It enables all member institutions to jointly address complex societal challenges under the framework of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 11 (SDG11). ‘We have also identified several distinct themes that require attention: Energy and Sustainability, Circular Economy, Transport and Mobility, Resilient Communities, and Citizen Science,' says Murphy.

He joined SMART-ER right after its founding when the first concepts and designs were ready. He leads a research group together with colleague Emma McGrath. The Irishman does that with full commitment. ‘SMART-ER will become very important in the future. It has received funding from Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. We are making excellent progress with a positive mid-term review.’


Water carrier

Murphy does not think of himself as an ambassador, but as a knowledge broker. ‘I tend to compare myself to the French captain Didier Deschamps who was sometimes called the “water carrier” during the world championship football in 1998. That was an important role. He was responsible for the right passes from the midfield. He did that fast and effectively. He did that so well, France became champions.’

Murphy committed to being water carrier for European research and is involved with many projects, but SMART-ER is ‘different’ according to him. ‘It is big, with greater participation from various levels of higher education research. In a way, it is like a large movement. The five research fields involve several multidisciplinary researchers that have combined interests for challenge-based research. And when SMART-ER is officially implemented, probably at the end of 2023 or the beginning of 2024, we will have created a special and unique project. In any case, the omens are favourable. All partner universities are involved, we are on the same page. It is nice to see that all participants understand its importance.’

Pádraig Murphy

Pádraig Murphy
Dublin City University 


The ECIU University Research Institute for Smart European Regions (SMART-ER) is the very first virtual research institute embedded in ECIU University, which officially launched in February 2021. It is a joint long term research strategy on smart regions, building on the rapid development of digital infrastructure across Europe. European low-urbanised regions face numerous challenges, many of which are directly related to the pressure of declining social, economic, and environmental well-being. Digitalisation can often play a key role in addressing these challenges and opportunities, leading to what ECIU refers as smart regions. Through a challenge-based research approach researchers commit themselves to design, develop and implement research. Xavier Gabarrell Durany (UAB) is the scientific coordinator. ‘The important distinction is: SMART-Er focuses on smart regions, not just smart cities. That allows us to better study entire ecosystems, instead of just urban areas or the natural environment. We look at the complete picture.’

Xavier Gabarrell Durany

Xavier Gabarrell Durany
Scientific Director Research Institute for SMART European Regions 


Learn more 

Longterm joint research strategy


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