Institute for Future Cities Projects

The Institute for Future Cities works to improve the quality of life of citizens by making cities healthier, more sustainable, and more resilient.

We conduct leading research and drive innovation to help reduce economic inequalities in cities, produce sustainable and resilient urban systems, improve wellbeing and health of citizens, and encourage citizen participation.

Working with commercial, civic and academic partners across the world, we help them to understand better the challenges faced by cities as places to live and work, and to help unlock the potential of these cities to provide innovative ways of enhancing the quality of life of their citizens.

Together we seek to help tackle the major economic, environmental and social challenges faced by cities through collaboration and co-design, working with academics, commercial partners, civic leadership, voluntary sector and citizens.

Our projects

Sustainability & resilience

Partners: Glasgow City Council, Gothenberg City, Ghent City, Riga City, Scottish Power, Swedbank, Vlaamse Instelling voor Technologisch Onderzoe (VITO), Riga Technical University (RTU), Eandis, Älvstranden Utveckling

Funder: European Union (EU), Scottish Cities Alliance

Overview: We led a project with European cities to help deliver major carbon emissions reductions and work towards sustainable city futures. Through the project, each of the cities created viable ambitious carbon reduction plans that also addressed the needs and opportunities of their communities.

STEP UP also created a comprehensive, effective, and easy-to-use strategic energy planning approach for understanding and delivering low-carbon cities, and showcased best practice innovative cross-sector energy solutions and projects, that can be adopted by cities across Europe and beyond.

STEP UP models address economics, financing, urban policy, and community, and stakeholder engagement to facilitate rapid deployment and replication.

Find out more:

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Partners: Glasgow City Council, Veolia, Scottish Power, Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSE), Scottish Enterprise

Funder: Glasgow City Council

Overview: We led the development of Glasgow’s first sustainability strategy – aimed at delivering ambitious carbon reduction emission goals, but also achieving:

  • urban regeneration
  • delivering jobs and training
  • helping change the city’s image
  • regenerating communities
  • tackling fuel poverty

By looking at the city in new ways, Sustainable Glasgow takes a holistic view of the city and its opportunities.

The strategy delivered a holistic low-carbon energy plan for the city. Sustainable Glasgow is about more than technology. The strategy’s effectiveness also lies in:

  • achieving change in behaviour and attitudes in organisations and communities
  • creating a supportive public policy environment
  • developing scalable business and finance models that deliver meaningful benefits for the city and communities

This long-term initiative aims to make Glasgow one of the greenest cities in Europe, a world-leading centre for sustainable policy, innovation, and action and will help Glasgow to become a Net Zero Carbon city by 2030.

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Partners: Scottish Government

Funder: Scottish Government

Overview: We led a project for Scottish Government to audit, review and revise their proposed climate change policies and actions to deliver Scotland’s carbon reduction targets.

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Partners: Scottish Government

Funder: Scottish Government

Overview: We analysed and tested public policy and regulatory processes required to deliver Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) projects in Scotland. Working with partners we developed this into a toolkit that provides a low-cost, low-risk approach to testing regional and national legislation and regulatory systems for Carbon Capture and Storage projects, and gaining the benefits in follow-up activities.

Carbon capture and storage regulatory test toolkit

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Partners: Umea Municipality, Glasgow City Council, Rotterdam City Council, Gdansk City Council, City of Parma, Brno City Council, Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT), Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI), Erasmus University, Eneco, Scottish Government, Scottish Power, Siemens, Glasgow Housing Association, RISE Acreo AB, Future Insight Group BV, INFOMOBILITY SPA

Funder: European Union (EU)

Overview: We worked with cities, research institutions, and commercial partners across Europe to demonstrate smart low-carbon energy districts. We brought together three lighthouse cities (Rotterdam, Glasgow, and Umeå) and three fellow cities (Brno, Gdansk, and Parma) to test, implement and accelerate the smart city model across Europe. RUGGEDISED delivered smart low-carbon projects in multiple cities – and guides to support cities to plan, design, and implement smart and sustainable city solutions.

Find out more about RUGGEDISED.

Contact to find out more about this project.

Health & wellbeing

Partners: Glasgow City Council, Police Scotland, Community Safety Glasgow 

Funder: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

Overview: Street crime and fear of street crime have significant adverse impacts on individual lives, the use and regeneration of urban areas, the ability to attract businesses and investment, the price of property, and the ability of citizens to live full and creative lives.

This research offered new insights into the pattern of crime in cities using big data analytics to analyse the relationships between multiple datasets and levels of crime. We use genetic algorithms to derive innovative optimised strategies that result in lower levels of street crime alongside balancing other objectives - such as:

  • lower service costs (for example, from improved design of street lighting, and policing patterns)
  • lower carbon emissions
  • improved public confidence and acceptance

Lawson, T., Rogerson, R. and Barnacle, M. (2018) ‘A comparison between the cost effectiveness of CCTV and street lighting as a means of crime reduction’, Computers Environment and Urban Systems, 68 (2018) 17-25.

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United Nations (UN)-Habitat Earth Observation Toolkit for Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements

Partners: UN-Habitat, GEO, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Government, Academic, and City partners

The Earth Observations Toolkit enables the use of Earth observations to advance Sustainable Development Goal 11 and the New Urban Agenda – helping make cities more resilient and sustainable. Richard Bellingham is a member of the UN Steering Committee for the Earth Observations Toolkit for Sustainable Cities and Communities – supporting accelerated adoption of EO data and tools by governments, cities and communities to deliver positive and meaningful impact for cities and citizens.

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Partners: UNIDO, American International Group (AIG), Chatham House

The Institute for Future Cities is working with UNIDO, AIG, and Chatham House to support cities internationally to deliver a more resilient and sustainable future. This includes supporting the design and delivery of UNIDO’s Bridge for Cities event – with ongoing involvement from Amman, Antsirabe, Dhaka, Domingo Este, Glasgow, Lilongwe, and Tirana.

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Smart cities

Partners: Glasgow City Council

Funder: TSB

Overview: The role of cities and their impact on our lives has never been more important.

The Institute for Future Cities created the City Observatory as an integral part of Glasgow’s £24 million ‘Future City Demonstrator’ project. The City Observatory is a tool that uses data to understand cities in new ways, to help develop innovative approaches to solving urban problems (in areas such as crime, health, economics, sustainability), and to deliver positive outcomes for cities.

The City Observatory project aimed to show how data capture and analysis can enable Glasgow and other cities to develop a better, more holistic understanding of their cities and systems, how these interact more widely with regions, economies, communities, businesses, and individuals, and how we can use data to improve quality of life in cities. The City Observatory is interdisciplinary at its core, integrating information from diverse sources and different cities across the whole world.

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Partners: Envisage Space, Cranfield University’s Centre for Autonomous and Cyber-Physical Systems, Balfour Beatty

Funder: European Space Agency

Overview: RelyMap Enhance uses analytical software technology to enable improved location accuracy for Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) receivers in complex environments, focusing initially on needs identified for the construction sector in an urban environment.

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Partners: CENSIS (the Innovation Centre for Sensor and Imaging Systems)

Funder: Datalab

Overview: The project developed a low-cost mobile Air Quality (AQ) sensor system that complements static sensing, with the ability to utilise transport systems as a dynamic sensing network. This innovative prototype focuses on distributed environmental sensing using vehicles as a mobile platform.

The mobile sensor network uses always-connected mobile communications and cloud hosting to ensure flexibility, reliability, and near-real-time data delivery.

An interactive web-based user dashboard visualises the data, allows interaction with the cloud services, and includes the capability to embed data processing and analytics outputs. For example. by using the data to drive city-specific AQ models and derive predictive and interpolative output. This gives users full control and the ability to make informed, and where necessary, potentially dynamic decisions.

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Living cities (Culture / Heritage / Community)

Partners: Historic Scotland

Funder: Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)

Overview: This project seeks to investigate the value of design and innovation in the context of built heritage.

Innovative design has the potential to provide effective solutions for building conservation, but not enough attention has been given to opportunities for innovation to make the vast majority of the existing urban fabric smarter for the future.

By facilitating dialogue between heritage guardianship agencies and design Small and Medieum Enterprise (SME's), this exploratory project aims to provide a deeper understanding of constraints that are potentially restricting innovation with regards to built heritage. It also highlights stories of success where design SMEs have been able to create value.

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Partners: University of Bournemouth, Glasgow Caledonian

Funder: Glasgow City Council, Glasgow Life

Overview: Building on the 2014 Commonwealth Games held in Glasgow, we have been exploring the social connections made around event volunteering. Engaging with volunteers over the last 7 years we have gained insights into how one-off volunteering can generate longer-term social legacies. The work includes stakeholder and community engagement, and social connectedness.

Using major events to increase social connections: the case of the Glasgow 2014 Host City Volunteer programme.

Contact to find out more about this project.

Partners: Northern Ireland Executive

Funder: Northern Ireland Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment

Overview: The effectiveness of Northern Ireland’s Strategic Energy Framework will depend to a significant extend on achieving changes in behaviour and attitudes amongst the Northern Irish population. This will involve changing behaviour by organisations and individuals – in homes, communities, businesses, and the public sector.

We created a benchmark of current sustainability behaviour and attitudes in Northern Ireland. A series of workshops were used to discuss and develop ideas to encourage behavioural change in Northern Ireland through a segmented approach based on an appreciation of people’s attitudes, barriers, motivations and current behaviours.

Rogerson, R, Bellingham, R and Shevtsova, Y (2010) Changing Behaviour and Attitudes to Sustainability: a Report for the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment

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For several decades, cities across the world have vied to be ‘host cities’ for major sporting and other events, as part of their strategy for economic development. Less attention has been given to how such events benefit local communities, and in particular how major events can help build local social capital.

Our research – building on legacy projects from the 2014 Commonwealth Games held in Glasgow – has been exploring the social connections made around event volunteering. Engaging with volunteers over the last 7 years we have gained insights into how one-off volunteering can generate longer-term social legacies.

Read more about the Event Volunteering Legacy Research project.

Read our contributions at:

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Place-based studies

Partners: University of Northumbria (UK), University of Newcastle (Australia), University of South Africa, University of Paraiba (Brazil)

Funder: Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)

Overview: This international project has been exploring how the city centre or urban downtown is changing and what its future could look like, through examining pressures on city centres across different cities of the world.

The Future of the City Centre Network brings together city leaders, practitioners and academics who share an interest in ensuring that the urban core of cities around the world remains relevant, vibrant and resilient.

Find out more about the Future of the City Centre Network.

Contact to find out more about this project.

Partners: Seawater Solutions Ltd., UK Urban AgriTech Collective, Glasgow City Council

Funder: InnovateUK

Overview: We provided expertise to an ambitious start-up for a feasibility study into transformation of derelict urban land into urban wetlands to support net zero carbon goals and as a catalyst for urban regeneration.

Within a 3 month timeframe we engaged with key stakeholders – including local communities – to design specific urban wetland projects, funding proposals, and to analyse how urban wetland projects can help Glasgow and other cities to achieve their net zero carbon targets, as well as regenerating land, creating local employment, enhancing community amenity, increasing skills, and helping to create sustainable urban drainage.

Find out more about Artificial Urban Wetlands.

Contact to find out more about this project.