ESPON COMPASS project has been launched

The European Territorial Observatory Network – ESPON – has commissioned the Department of Urbanism at TU Delft to lead a far-reaching comparative analysis of the state of spatial planning systems and territorial governance in Europe. It is the first comprehensive research on European spatial planning since 1997 when 15 countries were included in the EU Compendium. Compass will cover 39 countries – the 28 member states of the EU, the four EFTA countries and seven candidate and other countries.

Numerous reports have called for more effective territorial governance and a stronger spatial dimension to EU policies. Spatial planning should help to combine actions in particular places to achieve more effective results. COMPASS will compare the role of spatial planning in the 39 countries giving special attention its relationship with the €352 billion programme of investment through Cohesion policy.

The project director at TU Delft, Vincent Nadin, said  ‘the big challenge for COMPASS is to make an effective comparison whilst respecting the very different social, economic and cultural conditions in the many countries involved. We have a very experienced consortium who can provide the in-depth know-how necessary for an authoritative assessment.’ The COMPASS consortium comprises nine partners and 16 sub-contractors, many of whom have been at the forefront of research on European spatial planning and territorial governance.







Main partners and expertise of the COMPASS project:

Delft University of Technology, Department of Urbanism, Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment has substantial and long-standing experience of European spatial planning, international comparative research methods, and management of large international collaborative research projects. This is demonstrated by a long history of relevant projects and publications, and in the last three years publication on improving international comparative planning methodology. TU Delft will lead on the management of the project and WP 2.2, the data collection and comparative analysis, and provide data for the Netherlands and the UK.

The Akademie für Raumforschung und Landesplanung or Academy for Spatial Research and Planning (ARL) has particular experience of comparative research and engaging with professional practice. It led the COMMIN project on comparative planning in the Baltic States, maintains the website of this project and publishes widely for practitioners. ARL will lead WP 3 on the dissemination and valorization of project findings.

The Instytutu Geografii i Przestrzennego Zagospodarowania or Institute of Geography and Spatial Organisation of the Polish Academy of Sciences (IGSO) has in-depth knowledge of spatial development and planning in Poland and the wider European context. It is involved in many international scientific collaborations including ESPON projects. IGSO will lead on the WP 2.4 on case studies of best practices in the relationship of EU cohesion and other sector policies and spatial planning; and provide data for Poland.

The Nordic Centre for Spatial Development (Nordregio) is the leading Nordic research institute on regional development and urban planning, which specializes in international comparative and collaborative research. It has been involved in many ESPON projects and other international comparative studies using quantitative, qualitative and mapping analysis. Nordregio will lead WP 2.1 on the methodological framework, and provide data for Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.

The Interuniversity Department of Regional and Urban Studies and Planning at the Politecnico di Torino (Polito) is a leading authority on study the processes of territorial transformation and government, including spatial planning and territorial cohesion, and theorizing about the nature and role of planning in a comparative perspective. Polito will lead WP 2.3 on the relationship between EU sector policies and domestic planning and territorial governance, and provide data on Italy and Switzerland.

The Közgazdaság és Regionális Tudományi Kutatóközpont or the Centre for Economic and Regional Studies at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (RKI) is a leading research centre on European spatial development and planning and particularly cohesion policy, regional development and transnational and cross-border cooperation in central and eastern Europe. RKI will work closely with partners on WP 1.4 on quality control of project outputs; ensure that the central and eastern European perspective is fully integrated into the project; and provide data for Hungary, Romania and Croatia.

 Spatial Foresight (Spatial F) provides support in research and practice in territorial policy bringing together issues of territorial development policy making with foresight oriented approaches, including strategic analysis. Spatial Foresight has a long record of involvement in studies on European territorial development through ESPON, Interreg and specific national studies. This experience will be used in leadership of WP 1.4 on quality control of project outputs; and provision of data for Luxembourg.

The Department of Architecture, Planning and Environmental Policy at University College Dublin (UCD) has a significant record of participation in interdisciplinary EU research related to territorial development and specific expertise in the Balkans. UCD co-led the symposium and book publication on Planning for States and Nation-states in the US and Europe. UCD will lead on the assessment of data availability in the candidate countries and Western Balkans, and provide data on Ireland.

The Institut für Landes und Stadtentwicklungsforschung or State Research Institute for Urban and Regional Development (ILS) investigates current and future urban trends in Germany in a European context. ILS played a key role in the comparative study and book on Spatial Planning Systems and Practices in Europe with the ARL and others. ILS will be employed as a sub-contractor for the data collection in Germany but also contribute to workpackages on methodology and comparison.

COMPASS project sub-contractors:

Österreichisches Institut für Raumplanung


National Institute of Geophysics, Geodesy, and Geography, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences,

University of Thessaly, Greece

Czech Technical University, Prague

University of Tartu, Estonia

Anna Geppert, France

Gina Giannakourou, Greece

London SouthBank University, UK

Lithuanian Social Research Centre

Architecture Project, Ltd., Malta

Centre for Geographical Studies, University of Lisbon, Portugal

Institute of Geography, Slovakian Academy of Sciences

Institute for Spatial Policies, Slovenia

MCRIT, S.L., Spain

Instanbul Technical University, Turkey



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