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Cities Research Centre

We develop ‘cities’ research in a number of cross-cutting themes and specific urban challenges.

The Cities Research Centre leads research into the changing patterns of urban life, and how to make cities more inclusive, productive, and sustainable.

The Centre brings together scholars from across the University and external partners to understand and shape the city of the future.

It builds on the interdisciplinary expertise of our urban research community at the School of Geography and Planning and other departments at Cardiff University, to promote engagement, research, teaching and post-graduate training.


  • To design and take forward interdisciplinary and path-breaking research on inclusive, productive and sustainable cities.
  • To provide a focus for the School’s already extensive policy, advisory and stakeholder engagement activities on urban issues.
  • To disseminate research that helps meet today’s grand challenges around rapid urbanisation and sustainable cities and communities.
  • To support the training, career development and funding of researchers working on urban issues.


We are an international reference point for academic research and practical action, for inclusive, productive and sustainable cities.

We integrate and generate new research on changing patterns of urban life and how to create better cities in both developed and developing countries.

Research areas

We group our research under three main areas:

The Inclusive City

Research themes include:

  • wellbeing
  • healthy cities
  • social and spatial justice
  • access to housing
  • pluralism and diversity
  • alternative urbanisms
  • designing inclusive public space.

The Productive City

Research themes include:

  • urban economies
  • city regions
  • integrated transport
  • smart cities
  • competitiveness
  • clusters
  • service provision and co-production.

The Sustainable City

Research themes include:

  • resource-efficiency
  • urban metabolism
  • green infrastructure
  • urban planning
  • resilience
  • eco-cities
  • smart sustainability
  • access to food
  • low-carbon cities.


Project nameFundedInvestigator(s)
Post-conflict urban livelihoodsDFID-ESRC Joint Fund for Poverty Alleviation Research, Project ES/M008789/1 (2015-2018)Pete Mackie, Alison Brown, Kate Dickenson
Urban Riots: A comparative study of Stockholm and LondonFORMAS, the Swedish Research CouncilAnthony Ince, Ilda Lindell (Stockholm University – Principal Investigator), Thomas Borén (Stockholm University).
Challenges and Solutions for Ageing High-Rise Neighbourhoods in Japan and the UKESRC-AHRCBrian Webb, Maxwell Hartt, James White (University of Glasgow), Michael Short (University College London), Yoshimichi Yui (Hiroshima University), Taro Hirai (Hirosaki National University), Akihiko Osawa (Takasaki City University of Economics), Sayaka Fujii (University of Tsukuba).
Urban refugee economies, EthiopiaInternational Institute for Environmental and DevelopmentPete Mackie, Alison Brown, Kate Dickenson
Deepening habitat III debates on the urban informal economyEconomic & Social Research Council, Un-Habitat, WIEGOAlison Brown
The impact of austerity on city governments in the UKNA - This research has been undertaken in collaboration with various city governments in the UK.Crispian Fuller
European Public Space Design Programs with Social Cohesion and Intercultural dialogue in mindCUROP 2017 and 2018, Cities Research Centre Seed Funding 2017 and RMIT Exchange Grant 2018.Patricia Aelbrecht, Gary Bridge, Richard Gale, Quentin Stevens (RMIT, Australia/Barcelona), Tom Nielsen (Aarhus School Denmark)
Comparative Study on European Public Space Design Programs with Social Cohesion in mindCardiff UniversityPatricia Aelbrecht, Richard Gale, Gary Bridge
The Nexus of Smart Cities and Energy: A Scoping Survey of Urban StrategiesSchool of Geography and PlanningOleg Golubchikov
Prosperous cities at the top of the urban hierarchyCardiff UniversityGeoff DeVerteuil

Meet the team

Academic staff



Visit the School of Geography and Planning Events page if you're interested in related topics.

City Strategies for Net Zero

Cities will play a central role as the climate crisis unfolds. They produce around 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions and they will suffer many of the worst impacts of climate change - over-heating, flooding, and resource-shortages. At the same time, these urban agglomerations are also the sites of low-carbon innovation and ingenuity.

The Cities Research Centre convened an online event ‘City Strategies for Net Zero’ to learn about what different people in different cities are doing, to examine what’s worked and what hasn’t, and understand what more is needed.

We brought together city leaders, academic experts, and hands-on practitioners for what turned out to be a rich and energising discussion. The speakers were:

  • Simon Chrisander, Deputy Mayor, Malmo
  • Andrew Gregory, Director, Cardiff Council
  • Professor Rebecca Willis, Lancaster University
  • Rachel Huxley, Director of Knowledge and Learning, C40
  • Professor Gill Bristow, Cardiff University
  • Ben Smith, Director, Energy, Cities and Climate Change, Arup
  • Dr Linda Westman, Urban Institute, University of Sheffield
  • Dan Dowling, Director, Cities, Climate and Sustainability, PWC
  • Professor Peter Madden, OBE, Cardiff University

The first session looked at what city actors have done to date, and lessons learned, drawing from experience in the UK and internationally. The second session looked forward to what priorities cities should set and how they should drive change, informing future academic research, as well as feeding-in to the UK-hosted COP 26 in November this year. Presenters explored the need to engage citizens more, to plan more realistically, and to devolve more powers and resources to city administrations.

Video recordings of the presentations are available on the School of Geography and Planning YouTube channel.

Cities Research Seminar

We held a one-day seminar on Wednesday 5 June focused on designing and taking forward interdisciplinary and path-breaking research on addressing the challenge of fostering inclusive, productive and sustainable cities.

In the context of increasing urbanisation across the world, the advent of ‘smart cities’ and a host of challenges facing the UK’s cities, along with growing academic attention, political interest and research funding increasingly focusing on the urban agenda, the seminar examined and discussed how to improve collaboration across the University and beyond.

Cardiff University has a range of world-class capabilities related to urban issues across diverse disciplines. The aim of the Cities Research Centre is to help bring these together, to build partnerships across the University and externally, and to win funding for groundbreaking research.

We work on three thematic areas, which informed the content of the Seminar:

  • the Inclusive City
  • the Productive City
  • the Sustainable City

We aim to generate new research on changing patterns of urban life and how to create better cities in both developed and Global South countries.

This cross-University Seminar featured presentations from external partners and internal experts to help frame thinking about research needs and impact. Paul Orders, CEO of Cardiff Council, set out Cardiff’s challenges and opportunities as a fast-growing city, and addressed areas we are already working together and how we can collaborate in the future. Dr Yolande Herbath, Business Innovation Director at the Connected Places Catapult, explained their approach and their renewed focus on working with Wales.

Dr Heike Doering, Lecturer at Cardiff Business School and Malu Villela Garcia Bristol University looked at Economic Development and Regulation in Cities. Professors Rob Huggins and Peter Madden of Cardiff University outlined the ambitions of the Cities Research Centre, while Dr Richard Bromiley gave a steer on the funding landscape.

Dr Crispian Fuller, Senior Lecturer at the School of Geography and Planning steered the afternoon conversations examining opportunities to network and build collaborations.

The City of the Future: Productive, Inclusive, Resource-efficient?

Professor Chris Rogers, Birmingham University, Professor Duncan Wilson, UCL CASA,  Professor Elena Simperl, University of Southampton and Isabelle Bignall, CTO at Cardiff City Council will examined how the development of ‘smart cities’ and related tools such as big data, connected sensors and cognitive computing can help to understand and tackle urban challenges.

Their presentations can be found in related downloads.

Liveable Cities Debate

Sir Simon Jenkins and other speakers addressed the impact of bad planning and indiscriminate development on the nation’s quality of life.

Governing Urban Futures: Smart Cities and postcolonial urbanism in India

In this seminar, Dr Ayona Datta, Reader in Urban Futures, King's College London, delivered a postcolonial reading of India’s historiographies of ‘good governance’ and its projection into smart urban futures.

Planning for the Just City

Professor Susan S. Fainstein, a Senior Research Fellow at Harvard University, presented an event based on her new book ‘The Just City’.

Saving our Cities: a progressive plan to transform urban America

Professor William Goldsmith discussed his new book, Saving Our Cities: A Progressive Plan to Transform Urban America, arguing that the time is right for U.S. cities and city planners to push for more enlightened state and federal action.

Cities: Ensuring Prosperity, Equality and Well-Being

Adam Price (Welsh Assembly Member) and Andrew Carter (Centre for Cities) discussed how cities around the world are increasingly facing multi-dimensional and multi-scale challenges as they seek to create prosperous, socially inclusive and liveable urban environments.


Isabelle Bignall presentation

Presentation from The City of the Future seminar.

Professor Chris Rogers presentation

Professor Duncan Wilson presentation

Professor Elena Simperl presentation

Wendy Tipper presentation

Professor Chris Rogers presentation

Professor Duncan Wilson presentation

Professor Elena Simperl presentation

Wendy Tipper presentation


School of Geography and Planning

We are a multi-disciplinary applied human geography and urban studies school.

Next steps


Research that matters

Our research makes a difference to people’s lives as we work across disciplines to tackle major challenges facing society, the economy and our environment.


Postgraduate research

Our research degrees give the opportunity to investigate a specific topic in depth among field-leading researchers.


Our research impact

Our research case studies highlight some of the areas where we deliver positive research impact.