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SKAPE: Research


The role of scientific expertise in the drive for ‘smart urbanism’ in the Edinburgh city region

Event Name The role of scientific expertise in the drive for ‘smart urbanism’ in the Edinburgh city region
Start Date 27th Jan 2021 11:30am
End Date 27th Jan 2021 12:30pm
Duration 1 hour

On 27 January, we welcome Nicolas Zehner (Sociology) to SKAPE as part of our annual seminar series.


In my presentation, I aim to shed light on the practice of city-making by examining the role of higher education as powerful actor in the drive for ‘smart urbanism’ and regional economic development. To that end, it empirically engages with the implementation of a contemporary urban redevelopment project, the Edinburgh and South-East Scotland City Region Deal (CRD). The latter represents a £1.3bn investment by the Scottish and UK governments and local partners over the next fifteen years, which is designed to accelerate inclusive growth through the funding of infrastructure, skills and data-driven innovation. Officially signed in August 2018, the CRD presents a unique case study for at least two reasons: First, it constitutes the first higher education driven city region deal in the UK. Second, it aligns a cluster of extremely powerful actors around one specific sociotechnical imaginary – establishing the city region as the ‘Data Capital of Europe’. Conceptually rooted at the intersection of an emergent literature in the sociology of imagination and urban assemblage thinking, I argue that future-making in the Edinburgh city region is driven by an entrepreneurial class at the intersection of science and politics. More specifically, my presentation will problematise the relationship between scientific expertise and political accountability by illuminating how higher education officials mediate the epistemology-politics intersection in the context of data-driven urban regionalism.

Keywords: sociotechnical imaginaries; scientific expertise; smart urbanism

The seminar will take place online via Zoom (for link details, please email the Co-Directors - if you are already a member/associate member of SKAPE, then you will receive a Zoom link two days before the start of the event).