Digital Cities for Change

Funded by the Ove Arup Foundation, this project aims to uncover the relationship between the operation and management of infrastructure systems and the city-level outcomes for the citizens and economy


The challenges facing modern cities are complex, and cut across many traditional disciplines. However, those working in this area are ill equipped to develop and deliver solutions because:

  • Traditionally, professionals involved with cities and infrastructure management are trained in disciplinary and professional silos.
  • Methods for assessing and analysing the operational needs of a city and the relationship with physical infrastructure are therefore not ‘joined up’, and approaches to address them may be in tension.
  • We live in an era of increasing digital abundance, but industry and city governments lack the tools to understand and interpret the data to support smart cities’ decision making processes and deliver best value from them.

Therefore there is a need for a new breed of multi-disciplinary professionals who understand the technical, societal and operational aspects of a city and its supporting infrastructure. We have identified a lack of:

  • an established knowledge base to act as the foundation for sustained research, education and practice for the digital economy in smart cities
  • clear understanding of the competences required for sustained deployment and management of smart solutions
  • formal education programmes delivering necessary knowledge and skills for Industry

There are specific challenges around data science and digital tools, as the rapid evolution of this area means that existing tools have limited life, and are not able to address increasing volumes and variety of data, the requirements for scalability of models, and the move to cloud-based systems.



We are living through the ‘fourth Industrial Revolution’, moving from a period of relative data scarcity to an era of ‘digital abundance’, with estimates of the global market for Smart Infrastructure and Smart Cities totalling between £0.5 trillion and £2 trillion by 2025. There is huge potential for this transformation to improve people’s lives, delivering a world “where infrastructure brings economic prosperity, improves living standards and provides a better quality of life to the billions of people for whom reliable, clean drinking water is still an aspiration; where society will be able to demand and receive a level of service and will be absolutely confident they will receive that service; where technology will enable us to understand in real time how our assets are performing and we will be able to intervene to maximise value for money.”

In order to deliver on the transformative potential of this digital revolution, we need built environment professionals who are trained in a broader range of disciplines and tools, bridging infrastructure and city management solutions and developing the opportunities presented by the digital economy



The aims of the programme are to:

  1. establish the body of knowledge in smart cities and infrastructure, and identify capability gaps for infrastructure engineers and city practitioners.
  2. develop a framework that defines the skills and competence requirements in practice, spanning government agencies and engineering practice .
  3. enable the development and delivery of education/training content that meets the requirements of UK Industry and public sector stakeholders


Expected outputs

Broadly, the programme will deliver the following outputs:

  • a review of the established body of technical knowledge and the tools available in practice, as well as new tools emerging across academic research that are relevant for smart use of data in infrastructure design and delivery and city management.
  • An analysis of the knowledge and tool sets desired (but may not yet be available) in practice against those being developed in multi-disciplinary research environments spanning engineering, management, city planning, and geography.
  • a series of position papers and academic publications addressing the interfaces between infrastructure and the cities it serves, the data and information requirements involved, and the gaps and research requirements involved
  • a series of case studies and demonstrators to be used for research and education


Project Partners

  • Ove Arup Foundation
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