Advancing Academic Frontiers for Sustainable Solutions

December 9, 2019

This week 2007 MESPOM graduate and present Associate Professor at Lund University, Yuliya Voytenko Palgan talks about advancing academic frontiers for sustainable solutions.

What are you currently doing?
(what, where, with which institution/ organisation?)

In April 2019, I was promoted to the position of Associate Professor in Sustainable Development at the International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics (IIIEE), Lund University. My primary area of expertise is in the assessment of governance and management processes for sustainability solutions related to sustainable urban governance and sustainable consumption governance. My research includes new economies (i.e. emerging bioeconomy, sharing economy and circular economy) and sustainable urban innovation and experimentation (e.g. urban living labs, nature-based solutions in cities). I also worked with sustainable strategies for low-carbon economies in mobility sector by assessing the potential and effects of virtual meetings on the environment, organisations and individuals.

In these past 12 years, I worked in multicultural, multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary teams collaborating with colleagues from many countries and from various sectors, - something that MESPOM has well prepared me for. Currently I lead a 5 year research project Sharing and the City (funded by Swedish Research Council Formas), which aims to examine, test and advance knowledge on the role of municipal governments in the sharing economy. I am also in the management teams for Naturvation project (funded through Horizon 2020, Grant Agreement No. 730243, PI Prof. Harriet Bulkeley) and Urban Sharing project (funded by European Research Council, Grant Agreement No. 771872, PI Prof. Oksana Mont). In my research, I have produced around 100 publications in a variety of formats. Together with colleagues, I have also published an edited book Urban Living Labs (Routledge 2018) and a special issue Smart and Sustainable Cities (Local Environment 2019). I featured in 11 short films on sharing cities, sharing economy, collaborative consumption and production, urban governance, and nature-based solutions in cities. These films target broader audiences including municipalities, business professionals, social innovators and policy makers, and seek to build impact from my research as well as contribute to Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) designed and delivered by the IIIEE. The latest video series of mine on The Roles of City Governments in the Sharing Economy was widely spread by a global award-winning non-profit news, action and connection hub for the sharing transformation Shareable.

Apart from research, I have taught environmental science, sustainable development, sustainable consumption, new business models for sustainable living, and the sharing economy, on postgraduate, graduate, undergraduate and professional levels. I also coordinate four courses in applied research, which seek to build academic writing skills among MSc students. I co-supervise four PhD students, two of whom will graduate in 2020, and regularly supervise MSc theses.

How did you get to know of this opportunity?

Applying for the promotion to Associate Professor has been a very important step for me in my professional development but also a challenging one. Lund University is one of the top universities in Europe, and advancing academic career at this institution has not been easy. It required persistent work over the past 12 years to develop and be able to demonstrate strong research and teaching qualifications portfolios, qualifications portfolio for leadership and administrative assignments, and the one for innovation, as well as an ability to secure my own research funding.

Any future plans?

I hope that one day I can become a full professor. The ultimate goal of my teaching and supervision practices is to encourage students adopt a deep approach to learning. In the future, I would like to continue working with advancing societal impact of research and education by ensuring that new research projects involve transdisciplinary teams, and multiple stakeholders. Such teams would include representatives of city governments, businesses, social entrepreneurs, think tanks, non-governmental sector and community organisations.

How were you enabled by MESPOM to arrive where you are - both professionally and personally?

MESPOM taught me not only how to identify societal problems, but also how and where to look for solutions. Solutions call for an action to be implemented but this action is not an attempt of one person. It is a matter of collaboration between many including representatives of academia and knowledge institutes, business companies and industry, governments at various levels, NGOs and community groups. MESPOM has taught me how to collaborate with people coming from various cultural and educational backgrounds. Only through multi- and transdisciplinary collaborations our research informed knowledge will create societal impact, and will matter. Only then will it bring the needed change. MESPOM made me believe that I can be a leader and an engine of change towards a more sustainable future, and that nothing is impossible. Impossible is just an opinion.