ESRC investment programme launched

A major new investment into research to transform British cities over the next 50 years has been launched by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) today.

The Urban Transformations programme involves the investment of more than £15 million in research to understand the best ways to help cities around the UK to thrive both economically and socially over the next five decades.

The research will cover a wide range of issues – many of which have profound implications for current government policies as well as the future of the UK – these include:

  • The role of regional political devolution in the economic and social development of provincial UK cities.
  • How urban environments affect our health – ranging from allergies to mental health issues – and how we might improve wellbeing through better cities.
  • The role of smart technology in creating better cities, from tackling crime to building efficient infrastructure, and the potential social and economic and trade-offs technological changes may bring.
  • How cities in emerging economies like China, India and South Africa have adapted to rapid change – and what the UK can learn from this.

Professor Michael Keith, the Director of the ESRC Urban Transformations programme said: “We face a grand challenge – to shape a better future for our cities, the people who will live in them and Britain as a whole over the next fifty years. The Urban Transformations programme will help to make a better future possible. It will do this by bringing some of the nation’s most distinguished academics together to develop a deep understanding of the way we live now, the opportunities afforded by technology and the successes and mistakes of the past.”

This work is vital not only to improve social and economic performance of cities but also to ensure that British taxpayers get the best possible value for money. It is estimated that in the next 20 years alone, the UK will spend £400 billion on infrastructure projects. If this development is grounded in a thorough understanding of  the UK’s changing urban environment, then it will be more efficient and will help ensure greater economic and social benefits for the UK and its people.

Professor Keith added: “If, over the next five decades, we invest in urban projects that are based on a flawed understanding of how the nation and the world is changing, Britain may – once again – waste immense sums of money on ‘white elephants’ that scar our cities and fail to support solid economic growth, and thriving societies. This research is critical as it will lay the intellectual foundation for prudentinvestment, that will, literally, reshape Britain’s cities over the next half a century.”

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For further information contact:
Rob McNeil, Head of Media and Communications, ESRC Urban Transformations Programme.
e:;  Tel: 01865 274568;  Mob: 07500 970081