Glen Noble is Senior Portfolio Manager at the ESRC for Urban Transformations and project team member for the RCUK-IUK Urban Living Partnership.
Everywhere you look cities are on the agenda. Politically and economically we have major debates about the ‘Northern Powerhouse’, the smart city, devolution and new infrastructure projects. Indeed, there are so many new initiatives that it can be a hard time just keeping up with them all. It is my role to do just that and in the past 18 months the ESRC has committed to spending more than £13 million in new urban social research. This has included new calls in partnership with Brazil, China and South Africa and our own national call for Urban Transformations research. We also participate in the Joint Programming Initiative for Urban Europe and recently launched a new website for urban social science.
But time and again we hear that the real challenge is the need to bring together expertise and find ways to work outside of the ordinary silos of urban systems and government departments. To solve the problems our cities face we need to bring different groups of experts together to work with municipal government, local communities and businesses. It is only then that we will be able to develop solutions that meet the needs of urban citizens within the practical constraints of contemporary business and local government funding.
That’s why I’m proud to have spent this year developing the RCUK-IUK Urban Living Partnership, a new initiative launched in September that will fund a number of interdisciplinary and cross-sector pilot projects in UK cities. For me it is these interdisciplinary projects that demonstrate the best that social research has to offer the UK, integrating different scientific specialisms with detailed understandings of society and the economy into something directly usable by businesses and policymakers. The Urban Living Partnership has offered me the opportunity to provide a leading voice for social research in this new initiative through consultations with key stakeholders and our partnership with the GO Science Future of Cities team.
The new Partnership will fund pilots of a new way of working across all seven Research Councils and Innovate UK. The pilots will enable academics from all disciplines to work closely with innovative businesses, local communities and city government pilots to holistically understand and identify the challenges facing UK cities. In doing so, the initiative will offer a genuinely transformative approach to researching and solving the problems of urban living, while maximising the benefits and potential of cities to contribute to UK growth and sustainable wellbeing.
The ESRC is committed to developing interdisciplinary, comparative urban studies and understanding the challenges and opportunities presented by our rapidly urbanising global population. Our partnerships with Europe and the major transitional economics of the world, along with the new interdisciplinary Urban Living Partnership will contribute to enabling the UK to be a world leader in the market for solutions to urban challenges.