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Social Innovation in Sustainable Urban Development

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Sustainability in Geographic Science".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 December 2021) | Viewed by 43838

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A printed edition of this Special Issue is available here.

Special Issue Editor

Institute of Geography / Georg-Simmel Center for Metropolitan Studies, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Unter den Linden 6, 10099 Berlin, Germany
Interests: sustainable urban development; innovation; revitalization of urban industrial sites; financing urban infrastructure

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

How can a city advance from social invention to social innovation to attain sustainable urban development (SUD)?  Many new ideas, initiatives, and showcases for social innovation have been introduced; however, this kind of project-based experimentation is often just part of the ongoing urban politics (or governmentality) and lacks sustainability, with traditional siloed city administrations remaining a central obstacle to SUD. In Mieg and Töpfer (2013), we therefore claimed that cities need greater institutional innovation.

For this Special Issue, we invite contributions on sustainable social innovations related to SUD. We welcome submissions on topics such as: (1) new, successful models of urban governance for city administration and SUD (cf. Angelidou and Psaltoglou, 2017); (2) the role of design for SUD (cf. Manzini, 2014); (3) innovation forms and discourses on social vs. technological innovation (cf. Edwards-Schachter and Wallace, 2017): smart cities, responsible research and innovation (rri), digital commons, etc.; (4) diffusion of social innovation (cf. BEPA, 2010): multi-level governance, rural–urban regional systems, game changers, etc.; (5) the moral dimension of social innovation: Do we need better citizens or better institutions?

Angelidou, M., & Psaltoglou, A, (2017). An empirical investigation of social innovation initiatives for sustainable urban development. Sustainable Cities and Society, 33, 113–125.

BEPA Bureau of European Policy Advisers. (2010). Empowering people, driving change: Social innovation in the European Union. Publications Office of the European Union.

Edwards-Schachter, M.,  & Wallace, M. L. (2017). ‘Shaken, but not stirred’: Sixty years of defining social innovation. Technological Forecasting & Social Change, 119, 64–79

Manzini, E. (2014). Making things happen: Social innovation and design. Design Issues, 30, 57–66.

Mieg, H. A., & Töpfer, K. (Eds.). (2013). Institutional and social innovation for sustainable urban development. Earthscan.

Prof. Dr. Harald A. Mieg
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • social innovation
  • sustainable urban development
  • institutional innovation
  • urban governance
  • city administration
  • policy experimentation
  • multi-level governance
  • rural–urban regional systems
  • game changers
  • smart cities
  • responsible research and innovation (RRI)
  • digital commons
  • social responsibility

Published Papers (13 papers)

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Editorial

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4 pages, 413 KiB  
Editorial
Social Innovation in Sustainable Urban Development
Sustainability 2022, 14(9), 5414; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14095414 - 30 Apr 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1130
Abstract
The publication of a Special Issue on social innovation is not without surprise [...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Social Innovation in Sustainable Urban Development)
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Research

Jump to: Editorial

23 pages, 4427 KiB  
Article
Beach Access, Property Rights, and Social-Distributive Questions: A Cross-National Legal Perspective of Fifteen Countries
Sustainability 2022, 14(7), 4237; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14074237 - 02 Apr 2022
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 3517
Abstract
The right to access and enjoy the coastal zone, and especially the beach, is a centuries-old legal tenet in many countries and a key part of Integrated Coastal Zone Management. However, the legal right for coastal access takes on different forms and degrees [...] Read more.
The right to access and enjoy the coastal zone, and especially the beach, is a centuries-old legal tenet in many countries and a key part of Integrated Coastal Zone Management. However, the legal right for coastal access takes on different forms and degrees in different countries (or states). In this paper we argue that accessibility to coastal zones should be seen as a multi-faceted concept, and we distinguish among four different categories of accessibly. The first two—horizontal and vertical access—are the usual notions. We add two more: access to sea views, and access for people with disabilities. Regarding all four categories, in addition to the legal survey, we also attempt to point out some potential social justice issues. The comparative analysis focuses on national-level law and policy in fifteen advanced-economy countries. Most are also signatories to one or two international legal or policy rules about coastal management. The factual information on each country is based on country reports by top national scholars recently published in a book initiated and edited by this paper’s authors. In this paper, the authors develop further systematic comparative analysis within a new theoretical framing. The findings show that to date, the international rules have had only limited on-the-ground influence. Many gaps remain, mirroring cross-national inequalities in the rights to beach access. The comparative findings point to some emerging trends—both progressive and regressive. The conclusions call for upgrading the issue of coastal access rights through further research on aspects of implementation and through cross-national exchange. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Social Innovation in Sustainable Urban Development)
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19 pages, 893 KiB  
Article
Flexibility and Adaptation: Creating a Strategy for Resilience
Sustainability 2022, 14(5), 2688; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14052688 - 25 Feb 2022
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 4677
Abstract
Civil society actors engaged in social innovation supporting activities provide crucial services that address unmet social needs and empower communities. Yet, creating a resilient framework that not only supports their activities but helps to sustain them as an organization is often difficult. It [...] Read more.
Civil society actors engaged in social innovation supporting activities provide crucial services that address unmet social needs and empower communities. Yet, creating a resilient framework that not only supports their activities but helps to sustain them as an organization is often difficult. It necessitates resilience strategies that help them survive and overcome crises even without former institutionalization. The paper identifies three distinct strategies that can be followed: adaptability, diversification and ecosystem building. While all three represent different ways of resilience, the latest provides the most complex safety net, allowing bottom-up organizations and partnerships to share resources, develop complementary services and sustain social innovation. Choosing the time of the first COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdown for the analysis, the paper illustrates with eight selected case studies how these strategies enfold during a crisis. The paper analyses the activities of different civic initiatives, gauging their capacity to adapt flexibly to radically new situations. While doing so, it brings together the concept of social innovation and resilience and enriches resilience studies with a less frequently found focus on small, civic initiatives. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Social Innovation in Sustainable Urban Development)
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16 pages, 2370 KiB  
Article
Commoning Adaptive Heritage Reuse as a Driver of Social Innovation: Naples and the Scugnizzo Liberato Case Study
Sustainability 2022, 14(1), 191; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14010191 - 24 Dec 2021
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 3128
Abstract
The adaptive reuse of cultural heritage assets is often problematic. What emerges is the urgency of a thoughtful negotiation between built forms and emerging needs and requests. In this view, a fruitful trajectory of development arises in commoning heritage by means of adaptive [...] Read more.
The adaptive reuse of cultural heritage assets is often problematic. What emerges is the urgency of a thoughtful negotiation between built forms and emerging needs and requests. In this view, a fruitful trajectory of development arises in commoning heritage by means of adaptive reuse. Hence, the purpose of this article is to investigate how community-led adaptive heritage re-use practices contribute to social innovation in terms of new successful model of urban governance, by providing a specific focus on innovative aspects that emerge in both heritage and planning sectors. Therefore, it also aims to improve the knowledge in the innovative power of heritage when conceptualized as performative practice. To this end, the paper presents the adaptation process of a former church complex located in Naples, today Scugnizzo Liberato, one of the bottom-up initiatives recognized by the Municipality of Naples as part of the urban commons network of the city. The research results are based on desk research, a literature review, and interviews with experts and activists, conducted as part of the OpenHeritage project (Horizon 2020). Initial evidence shows that profound citizen involvement throughout the whole heritage-making process might generate innovative perspectives in urban governance as well as conservation planning practice. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Social Innovation in Sustainable Urban Development)
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15 pages, 910 KiB  
Article
NEET Rural–Urban Ecosystems: The Role of Urban Social Innovation Diffusion in Supporting Sustainable Rural Pathways to Education, Employment, and Training
Sustainability 2021, 13(21), 12053; https://doi.org/10.3390/su132112053 - 01 Nov 2021
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 2545
Abstract
Common themes of EU social policy include: the promotion of employment; improved living and working conditions; the equal treatment of employees; adequate social protection; and capacity building of the European citizenship. However, it is often the case that rural dwellers and, more specifically, [...] Read more.
Common themes of EU social policy include: the promotion of employment; improved living and working conditions; the equal treatment of employees; adequate social protection; and capacity building of the European citizenship. However, it is often the case that rural dwellers and, more specifically, rural NEETs, experience higher levels of marginalisation than their urban counterparts. Such marginalisation is evidenced by their exclusion from decision-making, public life, community, and society. These issues are compounded by an underdeveloped rural infrastructure, problematic access to education, limited employment opportunities, and a lack of meaningful social interaction. This study, a cross-sectional analysis, assesses a number (n = 51) of social interventions under the Youth Guarantee Programme from a social innovation perspective and presents a characterisation of examples of best practice across different dimensions of social innovations. This paper presents an examination of the potential of sustainable rural–urban ecosystems that are focused on supporting the symbiotic social innovation diffusion methods which can help to establish and sustain rural–urban pathways to improved education, employment, and training. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Social Innovation in Sustainable Urban Development)
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14 pages, 5528 KiB  
Article
Urban Rehabilitation, Social Innovation, and New Working Spaces in Lisbon
Sustainability 2021, 13(21), 11925; https://doi.org/10.3390/su132111925 - 28 Oct 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2294
Abstract
This study brings together three subjects: urban rehabilitation, social innovation, and new working spaces, envisaging an intersectoral viewpoint, focusing on a European city, Lisbon, arguing that the public sector holds the capacity to consistently drive positive achievements in this respect. This study involves [...] Read more.
This study brings together three subjects: urban rehabilitation, social innovation, and new working spaces, envisaging an intersectoral viewpoint, focusing on a European city, Lisbon, arguing that the public sector holds the capacity to consistently drive positive achievements in this respect. This study involves analyzing policy, governance, and urban planning documents in force, observation and spatial analysis using open-source databases, and stakeholder interviews. The result is in line with the primary research plea applied to the case study, and conclusions show that public intervention, whenever applied systematically from the city vision to local plans, resorting to close bonds between the sites and the communities in a participatory and collaborative way, may lead to urban rehabilitation and social innovation through the inception and development of new working spaces. The study was designed while researching as a member of COST CA18214 (The Geography of New Working Spaces and the Impact on the Periphery). Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Social Innovation in Sustainable Urban Development)
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22 pages, 2003 KiB  
Article
Measuring Citizens-Centric Smart City: Development and Validation of Ex-Post Evaluation Framework
Sustainability 2021, 13(20), 11497; https://doi.org/10.3390/su132011497 - 18 Oct 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2182
Abstract
This research aims to present a standardized evaluation system to review and further enhance users’ levels of satisfaction with technologies, facilities, and services of a modern smart city at a time when the smart city paradigm has shifted from the focus of its [...] Read more.
This research aims to present a standardized evaluation system to review and further enhance users’ levels of satisfaction with technologies, facilities, and services of a modern smart city at a time when the smart city paradigm has shifted from the focus of its infrastructural features to citizens. The study also seeks to verify the standardized system, so as to explore the possibility of its future application. For the goals, this research established the Structural Equation Model (SEM) based upon the basic structure of the Customer Satisfaction Index, which is a widely used ex-post assessment model, and upon implications of related studies. To verify the SEM, this study chose two cities, which are located far away from one another and employ different business methods, and conducted a survey of 212 and 197 residents, respectively, with the results being applied to the model for analysis to ascertain if the SEM is reliable and adequate. The analysis results showed that the model secures explanatory power in statistical terms, partially proving that it can be developed into a post-evaluation system for a citizens-centric smart city down the road. However, as meaningful differences were spotted in accordance with characteristics of each urban project, this study tried to come up with the background information of and reasons for such variations, to present implications for urban planning. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Social Innovation in Sustainable Urban Development)
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28 pages, 1491 KiB  
Article
The Right to Have Digital Rights in Smart Cities
Sustainability 2021, 13(20), 11438; https://doi.org/10.3390/su132011438 - 16 Oct 2021
Cited by 17 | Viewed by 9465
Abstract
New data-driven technologies in global cities have yielded potential but also have intensified techno-political concerns. Consequently, in recent years, several declarations/manifestos have emerged across the world claiming to protect citizens’ digital rights. In 2018, Barcelona, Amsterdam, and NYC city councils formed the Cities’ [...] Read more.
New data-driven technologies in global cities have yielded potential but also have intensified techno-political concerns. Consequently, in recent years, several declarations/manifestos have emerged across the world claiming to protect citizens’ digital rights. In 2018, Barcelona, Amsterdam, and NYC city councils formed the Cities’ Coalition for Digital Rights (CCDR), an international alliance of global People-Centered Smart Cities—currently encompassing 49 cities worldwide—to promote citizens’ digital rights on a global scale. People-centered smart cities programme is the strategic flagship programme by UN-Habitat that explicitly advocates the CCDR as an institutionally innovative and strategic city-network to attain policy experimentation and sustainable urban development. Against this backdrop and being inspired by the popular quote by Hannah Arendt on “the right to have rights”, this article aims to explore what “digital rights” may currently mean within a sample consisting of 13 CCDR global people-centered smart cities: Barcelona, Amsterdam, NYC, Long Beach, Toronto, Porto, London, Vienna, Milan, Los Angeles, Portland, San Antonio, and Glasgow. Particularly, this article examines the (i) understanding and the (ii) prioritisation of digital rights in 13 cities through a semi-structured questionnaire by gathering 13 CCDR city representatives/strategists’ responses. These preliminary findings reveal not only distinct strategies but also common policy patterns. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Social Innovation in Sustainable Urban Development)
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20 pages, 2084 KiB  
Article
The Governance Challenge within Socio-Technical Transition Processes: Public Bicycles and Smartphone-Based Bicycles in Guangzhou, China
Sustainability 2021, 13(16), 9447; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13169447 - 23 Aug 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1586
Abstract
In urban China, utilitarian cycling plays a significant role in achieving sustainable mobility. Within this context, different kinds of sharing-bicycle programs equipped with new technologies/devices emerge and extend. By comparing two generations of them in Guangzhou (China), this paper explores how new technologies [...] Read more.
In urban China, utilitarian cycling plays a significant role in achieving sustainable mobility. Within this context, different kinds of sharing-bicycle programs equipped with new technologies/devices emerge and extend. By comparing two generations of them in Guangzhou (China), this paper explores how new technologies impact existing modes of mobility governance. First, the technical innovations, e.g., app-based bicycle locks and micro-GPS equipment, contribute to liberating emerging private companies from existing governmental regulations based on land control. Second, the adoption of these innovations not only contributes to the accumulation of cultural and symbolic capitals based on a fashionable lifestyle but also links bicycles to personal point-to-point travel data that could be translated to economic capital. Third, the discrepancy between the dispositions of the government and private companies regarding the innovations opens an opportunity for the quick extension of sharing bicycles, which brings both positive and negative consequences on citizens’ daily travel and life. The absence of other civic actors in the decision-making process accelerates the negative consequences caused by the profit-driven fast extension of sharing bicycles and the governmental top-down governing logic. These findings provide academia with implications for understanding the impact of innovations on achieving sustainable mobility. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Social Innovation in Sustainable Urban Development)
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10 pages, 544 KiB  
Article
Precaution and Innovation in the Context of Wastewater Regulation: An Examination of Financial Innovation under UWWTD Disputes in London and Milan
Sustainability 2021, 13(16), 9130; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13169130 - 15 Aug 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2085
Abstract
The Water Framework Directive (WFD) under the guidance of the precautionary principle sets out standards to guarantee high quality water services for European citizens. This creates pressure on European cities to update and renew their water infrastructures in accordance with EU Law at [...] Read more.
The Water Framework Directive (WFD) under the guidance of the precautionary principle sets out standards to guarantee high quality water services for European citizens. This creates pressure on European cities to update and renew their water infrastructures in accordance with EU Law at great financial cost. Cities within the Union try to bridge this financial gap with a variety of approaches. This paper presents the cases of London and Milan, both of which were subject to legal proceedings for breaching the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive. By example of these two cases, this article details how the precautionary principle affects urban water infrastructure provision, and how the regulation of the primary risk of pollution can both trigger innovation and create secondary risks within the highly integrated urban water infrastructure sector. The London case focusses on an individual infrastructure project and shows how its financial framing has compromised the final outcome, while the Milan case presents a longer-view perspective that shows how structural changes in the urban water infrastructure sector have enabled an environment for sustainable financial innovation. The role of transparency and good local governance practices are emphasized for a successful implementation of the precautionary principle requirements in a city’s water sector. Managing this process effectively can result in meaningful social innovation for urban water infrastructure provision. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Social Innovation in Sustainable Urban Development)
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19 pages, 9002 KiB  
Article
Social Innovation for Sustainable Urban Developmental Transitions in Sub-Saharan Africa: Leveraging Economic Ecosystems and the Entrepreneurial State
Sustainability 2021, 13(13), 7360; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13137360 - 30 Jun 2021
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 2672
Abstract
This study theorizes social innovation-based transitions to sustainable urban development from the perspective of the African urban condition, highlighting that large infrastructure and service provision deficits, poverty, inequality, heavy import dependence and the prevalence of dual formal–informal sector systems are key factors to [...] Read more.
This study theorizes social innovation-based transitions to sustainable urban development from the perspective of the African urban condition, highlighting that large infrastructure and service provision deficits, poverty, inequality, heavy import dependence and the prevalence of dual formal–informal sector systems are key factors to account for in a just, sustainable urban African developmental transition. It identifies an opportunity space that can be leveraged for urban and broader transitions to sustainability on the continent by leveraging “economic ecosystems” for local scale social innovation-based development interventions. It theorizes that multi-level transitions to sustainability can be engendered by adopting an entrepreneurial state led approach at local scales by using economic ecosystems as the framework to (1) stimulate social innovation-based entrepreneurship that meets local and local–regional demands through decentralized, low cost, small-scale infrastructures, technologies and services, (2) leverage social innovation-based economic ecosystems for catalyzing multi-scalar transitions to sustainability, (3) recast the role of the entrepreneurial state, specifically in relation to social innovation and sustainable urban development (SUD) in Africa and (4) bridge formal–informal sector dualism. This framing prioritizes local economic development over centralized, state-led interventions that involve grand-scale masterplans, wholly new satellite cities and bulk infrastructure deployments in conceptualizing sustainable urban development transitions in Africa. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Social Innovation in Sustainable Urban Development)
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22 pages, 5103 KiB  
Article
Assessing the Contributions of Urban Light Rail Transit to the Sustainable Development of Addis Ababa
Sustainability 2021, 13(10), 5667; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13105667 - 18 May 2021
Cited by 9 | Viewed by 4162
Abstract
Many of the existing urban transport infrastructures in developing African cities are challenged by the mobility demands of their ever-increasing population and increased vehicle capacity. To address these transportation challenges, the Federal government of Ethiopia through the Ethiopian Railway Corporation (ERC) constructed and [...] Read more.
Many of the existing urban transport infrastructures in developing African cities are challenged by the mobility demands of their ever-increasing population and increased vehicle capacity. To address these transportation challenges, the Federal government of Ethiopia through the Ethiopian Railway Corporation (ERC) constructed and operates the Addis Ababa light rail transit (AA-LRT). Currently, many other African cities are following in action. This study aims to assess the contributions to sustainable development derived from the services of urban light rail in Addis Ababa. Cross-sectional quantitative research by means of a structured questionnaire survey considering key variables of social, economic, and environmental transport sustainability dimensions was conducted in Addis Ababa. Dimension-wise, the collected data was then analysed in order to measure the contributions made by AA-LRT and to identify the relations amongst each considered variable and each sustainability dimension. The findings of the study indicate a high level of perceived contributions of the economic sustainability dimension as compared to social and environmental sustainability. The study suggests an improved consideration of the environmental and social dimension for a holistic approach to transport sustainability of the city. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Social Innovation in Sustainable Urban Development)
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18 pages, 925 KiB  
Article
Economic Development, Informal Land-Use Practices and Institutional Change in Dongguan, China
Sustainability 2021, 13(4), 2249; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13042249 - 19 Feb 2021
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 2176
Abstract
This paper is engaged with the critical perspective that highlights the role of the state in the production of urban informality by examining the dynamics of informal land-use practices in Dongguan, China since 1978. Based on in-depth interviews and archival analysis, the relationship [...] Read more.
This paper is engaged with the critical perspective that highlights the role of the state in the production of urban informality by examining the dynamics of informal land-use practices in Dongguan, China since 1978. Based on in-depth interviews and archival analysis, the relationship between informal land development, the state, and land institution change has been revealed. Our findings show that informal land development is practiced by village collectives from below in Dongguan as a response to the absence and limitation of the national land law. The local government handles the informality in a pragmatic way that serves the goal of economic development in different historical conditions by actions of encouraging, tolerating, and authorizing, suggesting that the definition of informality is not a neutral classification. It is argued that while informality represents people’s creativity in dealing with practical problems, when and to what extent it can be tolerated, formalized, and absorbed depends on the intention of the state in a specific historical context. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Social Innovation in Sustainable Urban Development)
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