What distinguishes the projects in the Urban Transformations portfolio?

The traditional separation of particular disciplines has often led to segregated silos of expertise. This has been both in areas of academic scholarship and in different ‘urban professions’ that shape the city such as planning, architecture, housing, policing and discrete forms of welfare provision and governance.  This is why the Urban Transformations portfolio includes an array of projects that span multiple fields of expertise and are firmly focused on emerging social, economic and demographic change.

Drawing on the expertise of some of the leading British, European and international academic institutions, working in partnership with NGOs, government bodies and corporations, the portfolio aims to build up a body of research and best practice through a variety of collaborative projects. Though these cover a wide range of subject areas, they share a number of common principles. All of the projects aim to be some or all of the following:

    • Cross-disciplinary: by partnering specialists from different sectors, such as social policy, statistics, and planning, the Urban Transformations portfolio serves as a bridge for more holistic and integrated research. This enables experts to benefit from other fields of knowledge while creating effective and original solutions to today’s urban challenges.
    • Multi-scalar: while much attention is directed towards the larger forms of urban development, urban life is frequently experienced on a smaller scale. The projects in the portfolio therefore encompass a breadth of urban forms, from the neighbourhood to the megacity, and look at the distinct ways these affect communities, businesses and other stakeholders.
    • Future-oriented: given the rapidly changing nature of urbanization, research must look forward to anticipate emerging social and economic trends. The Urban Transformations portfolio encompasses a number of programmes that aim to develop cutting-edge methodologies, ICT tools and other knowledge products with the potential to significantly influence our future understanding of cities.
    • Internationally comparative: while many of the Urban Transformations projects focus on particular cities or regions, the research has broader implications for urban areas elsewhere and is aligned with many of the most pressing priorities facing British, European and international policy makers. The collective outputs of the portfolio therefore have global relevance and will together enrich current urban knowledge.

These common themes connect a wide and growing collection of projects that engage in a range of fields across the world. As new funding calls are issued and further projects are added, the portfolio will continue to evolve to include a greater number of international programmes, with a particular focus on Brazil, India, China and South Africa.

While many of the projects contain an emphasis on improved data collection and research innovation, their practical application covers a breadth of areas, including social exclusion, housing, migration, transport, crime, food security, disaster risk and environmental resilience. A large number also address issues relating to governance, communities and international development, such as city planning, public services and urban vulnerability.

What does Urban Transformations seek to achieve?

The Urban Transformations programme aims to address a wide range of stakeholders with a professional, public or political interest in cities, including members of the general public wishing to learn more about current academic debates on urban development worldwide.

We hope to provide a bridge between the academic community and decision makers, businesses, local governments and communities to support knowledge exchange and cross-sectoral collaboration. Among other activities, our website will compile an expanding selection of British, European and global organizations working in various capacities, such as research, industry and policy, to serve as a platform for partnerships, resource sharing and other opportunities.

We will also be commissioning a series of think pieces on key urban issues to address academics with a research interest in the city or who are interested in contemporary urban research. These will be accompanied by a number of responses from other practitioners to create an original body of discussion that will bring together key researchers in conversation and offer a window into some of the major talking points.

Besides signposting events, funding calls and other opportunities, Urban Transformations will also provide an important platform to showcase some of the remarkable studies on cities underway across the world and the real benefits that have been achieved through ESRC-funded research. The online materials include project profiles, links to outputs such as publications and guest blogs by project researchers on the impact of their work.



The support of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is gratefully acknowledged.

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