13 October 2016 – Interaction. That was one of the key objectives of the organisers of the AIVP 15th World Conference. Almost 400 business professionals, policymakers and academics from all over the world met in Rotterdam from 5 to 7 October. They explored crossovers between port and city—crossovers for economic and social innovations fuelled by new technologies, innovative businesses and new planning strategies between city and port.
For many of those attending the conference, the former submarine facility that now forms part of the RDM Campus was a strange space. Large conferences often take place in conventional conference venues or hotels, but the hosting organisers in Rotterdam convinced AIVP that the theme, the location and the programme of the conference had to be unconventional. This push for the unconventional had everything to do with a reality that many in the Dutch port city have become fully aware of in recent years : while becoming an attractive city with a successful port, Rotterdam still faces considerable economic, social and spatial challenges.
In spite of the numerous differences between the world’s port cities, the major issues they face are similar in many respects. Climate change, energy transition and the development of “disruptive” technologies featured in almost every presentation given at the conference. Solutions are not readily available, however. Next to introducing new technologies, many port cities find that social innovation and the related engagement of citizens is even a greater challenge, as Thato Tsautse - managing director of the maritime cluster in Durban - clearly underlined during the opening sessions.