Future Cities

Future Cities

We are seeking outstanding PhD candidates for University of Edinburgh and University of Glasgow Joint PhD Studentships for the research projects listed below.

Cities are home to more than half the world’s population and the challenges facing cities of the future are complex and significant. With a strong interdisciplinary focus, a cohort of PhD students will collaborate across the Universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh to stimulate positive debate, inform policy and propose technological solutions for Future Cities. The projects will examine, evaluate and explore the complex and dynamic behaviour of the urban system using innovative and diverse methodological approaches.

Synergies and Added Value

Academics at the Universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh have a broad portfolio of shared research interests and many complementary strengths which provides a wide range of research opportunities in Future Cities.  This theme builds on substantial activities and initiatives in both Glasgow and Edinburgh and joint activities that offer multiple synergies and added value.

  • The Urban Big Data Centre, led by University of Glasgow and funded by ESRC, promotes the use of big data and innovative methods to improve social, economic and environmental well-being in cities. It provides an established framework for capturing, storing, analysing, and sharing urban big data.
  • The Centre for Future Infrastructure within the Edinburgh Futures Institute is an emerging multi-disciplinary research hub supported by the Edinburgh City Region Deal.
  • University of Edinburgh is a founder member of the Alan Turing Institute, the UK's national institute for Data Science and Artificial Intelligence.
  • University of Glasgow is a member of the Smart and Sustainable Cities and Communities Committee SDS/2 of the British Standards Institution (BSI), which therefore creates additional dissemination and impact opportunities.
  • The School of Mathematics at University of Edinburgh can provide strong methodology support and has strong collaborative links through the Maxwell Institute for Mathematical Sciences, the interdisciplinary Centre for Statistics, and co-hosting the International Centre for Mathematical Sciences.
  • The aspirations of the Glasgow and Edinburgh City Region City Deals and Scottish Cities Alliance to accelerate the development of future city initiatives.
  • Scotland is developing Innovation Districts in partnership between Universities, city councils and Scottish Enterprise, for which Future Cities initiatives are vital
  • Scotland’s innovation centres, particularly CENSIS and Data Lab, will provide a valuable, immediate, and proven strategic interface to industry.
  • The Future Cities Catapult and Transport Systems Catapult are uniting to create a new organisation that will bring together their skills and expertise to tackle the problems of modern city living and address the future of mobility. A new dedicated Scottish base has recently been announced.
  • Both universities have major campus developments underway (and upcoming) that provide a unique opportunity for incorporating and designing smart infrastructure into living laboratories within substantial urban districts.
  • Both universities have built a strong joint legacy by co-leading What Works Scotland (2014-2018), a £4 million research programme funded by the ESRC and the Scottish Government, focused on public service reform, local governance and democratic, social and methodological innovation.

Existing Collaborations

The Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow have longstanding working relationships within the field of Future Cities that will be enhanced by this programme of studentships.  The University of Edinburgh is a partner in the Glasgow-based Urban Big Data Centre; the two universities are working together within the Scottish Research Partnership in Engineering (SRPE) on Smart Infrastructure.; and both are also partners in the Scottish Informatics and Computer Science Alliance (SICSA).

Value-added from the Collaboration

Future City initiatives are high on the agenda for the partners’ host cities, particularly given their respective City Deals (over £2 billion to support improved transport networks and regeneration). These studentships will add depth and breadth to these major activities and the existing research portfolio. It will enable us to widen the interdisciplinary focus of our existing collaborations, drive innovation, engage with industry, innovation centres and government, and ultimately support economic growth and social benefit across Scotland.

Potential for future joint funding

EPSRC, ESRC and the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund are all sources of future funding to capitalise on this investment in studentships. The Urban Big Data Centre and the Data-Driven Innovation (DDI) Programme within the Edinburgh City Deal are just two examples that demonstrate the ability to attract funding in this area. The strong interdisciplinary focus, covering technical, social and policy, represents a distinguishing feature that will attract funding.

How to Apply

1) Prospective students should review the list of potential projects proposals and queries regarding eligibility can be directed to cahsspg.awards@ed.ac.uk (University of Edinburgh) or pgr@glasgow.ac.uk (University of Glasgow) .

2) Applicants should register their details online. Please note that this is not an application to study at the respective universities.

3) Unless otherwise stated, applicants may submit applications, via email to pgr@glasgow.ac.uk, up until the application deadline of 5.00pm, Monday 21 January 2019.  

Required documentation should be submitted as a combined PDF document using the file name '<Theme>, <Applicant First name Surname> ie 'One Health, Phillipa Dean':

University of Glasgow Led Projects

University of Glasgow Led Projects

Joined up and shared Cities using Connected and Automated Vehicles (CAV)

Project Description:

The development of CAVs will revolutionise mobility within and between future cities. Low emission buses have the flexibility to allow cities to retain their unique cultural identities, yet selectively share key state-of-the-art resources such as hospitals, teaching and research facilities, sports grounds, airports etc. This ambitious vision would comprise two inter-connecting strands

(a) The sociological and operational research aspects of CAV buses, will be led by UoG. UoG will devise smart infrastructure systems, including vehicular-traffic controllers and virtual traffic lights, in which the trajectories and streams of CAVs emerge and change dynamically according to prevailing traffic conditions.

(b) UoE will focus on analysing big data analyses of the impact of CAV buses on the urban and inter-urban infrastructure. In 2019 there will be a trial involving a “train” of CAV buses across the Forth Road Bridge – this presents a unique opportunity to assess the engineering viability of new socio-economic initiatives. 

Supervisor:


Future Cities Through Urban Experimentation

Project Description:

Experimentation has become a major new trend in urban policy (Raven & Evans 2016; Caprotti & Cowley 2017). ‘Urban living labs’, ‘incubators’ etc. are examples of emergent practical methods aimed at facilitating new forms of co-operation among diverse urban actors and, in turn, finding solutions to urbanisation challenges to enable the transition towards more sustainable futures. Recent research has begun to develop in-depth understanding of the governance processes involved in urban experimentation, mainly with a focus on internal processes (Voytenko et al. 2015; Bulkely et al. 2016). What, however, remains under-researched – and, therefore, this project aims to investigate – is how urban experiments can be scaled up and reproduced. The limited evidence to date suggests that urban experiments may suffer from a governance deficit: for example, innovation achieved within the experimental space may be difficult to embed in the surrounding (geographical, organisational etc.) context; the often techno-centric focus may hamper effective wider public participation and social innovation; and the desired portability – from one locale to another – may not materialise if place-specific conditions are too different.

The project will investigate this topic through a comparative analysis of recent urban experiments carried out in the UK as part of ‘smart’ or ‘future city’ innovation programmes. The project will conduct a survey of urban experiments across UK cities, followed by a series of in-depth case studies investigating the dynamics of and conditions for upscaling and reproducing individual experiments. The empirical findings will be used both to contribute to the theoretical conceptualisation of urban experiments as governance processes and to inform policy and practice development.

Supervisors:


Scalable and Efficient Radio. Frequency Identification (RFID) for the Smart Cities

Project Description:

The emerging trend of connected things is a key enabler for smart cities of the future and this will rely on wireless cellular infrastructure (massive connectivity feature of 5G). Radio frequency identification (RFID) provides a technological solution to give cost-effective and reliable identity to each connected thing in a smart city environment: ranging from cars to mundane shopping items. The student will consider the problems related to the RFID tags (for sensors, actuators and intelligent processing nodes) to enable applications such as healthcare monitoring (blood pressure or glucose monitoring), smart waste management, omnipresent security, smart parking etc. The outcome will be a proposed feasible RFID system which is reliable, efficient, cost-effective and scalable on a city level.

Supervisor:

 


Wireless Block-chain System for Future Digital Cities

Project Description:

Blockchain is a revolution in systems of record -- history's first permanent, decentralized, global, trust-free ledger of records that may reshape the future digital economy and hence transform the society. State of the art blockchain system considers perfect wired communication links. This project will investigate wireless blockchain technology in IoT eco-systems for the future smart and digital cities (linked to the project above). The unique requirements in blockchain protocol will motivate a new 5G+ communication network protocol dedicated for the scenarios maximizing the communication spectrum efficiency and minimizing the cost and power consumption at all IoT devices. The information sharing by wireless blockchain technology can be used in many scenarios such as smart transportation, logistics, storage and management, digital identification and voting, etc.

Supervisor:


The Future of Welfare in the Post-work Smart City

Project Description:

Advances in Artificial Intelligence and smart technologies reduce the need for human labour and interaction.  This could transform post-industrial UK cities. There is growing interest in what ‘post-work’ futures might mean for urban dwellers, and also who might perform activities challenging to robots, such as emotionally demanding care-work.  As part of such a transformation, advocates recommend implementation of an unconditional cash transfer (a basic income). This runs counter to current global trends in welfare policy, spearheaded by the UK, which champion ‘ubiquitous conditionality’ (Dwyer & Wright, 2014). UK claimants who refuse to increase their job-seeking or working hours to full-time are subject to one of the harshest sanctions regimes in the world. Some theorists have interpreted this style of welfare reform as an extreme mechanism for disciplining urban populations (Fletcher & Wright, 2018, Grover, 2018). This proposed PhD project is designed to investigate these contradictions and welfare challenges of a post-work future for British cities. 

Supervisors:


Mapping Urban Inequality Online with Tools for Temporally Evolving Networks

Project Description:

Social networks on digital platforms are increasingly important and prevalent in the Digital Age. The success and sustainability of future cities will not only depend on growing connectivity but also on reducing social inequalities. This project, to be delivered in association with the Urban Big Data Centre (UBDC) at the University of Glasgow, shifts away from a traditional focus on physical infrastructures to social, online dimensions of future cities. This project aims to examine the role and impact of online networks on the future of urban society and inequality. This PhD offers a novel perspective by analysing the dynamics of online networks among marginalised social groups in cities (e.g. migrants, low-income earners, and precarious and “gig economy” workers). Using cutting-edge computational tools for temporally evolving networks, with social science and computer science supervision, this project analyses how marginalised groups’ connections (e.g. Reddit, Twitter, YouTube) change over time. This innovative interdisciplinary work will highlight how online networks may allow or inhibit individuals to mitigate experiences of urban inequality. 

Supervisors:


Sustainable Cities and Neighbourhoods: Lessons from the developing countries

Project Description:

Sustainable development debates tend to focus on higher levels such as ‘the city’ and emphasise the physical and environmental aspects of urbanisation. We know very little about the specific local and neighbourhood level social, economic and physical sustainability of fast-growing cities in developing countries. This project will draw on works currently conducted by the international teams of the GCRF Centre of Sustainable, Healthy and Learning Cities and Neighbourhoods (SHLC).

Using some recently developed neighbourhoods in fast growing cities (selected from by the SHLC international partners), the project will examine the local and community sustainability factors with the aim to achieve the balance of social, economic, environmental and political and management sustainability at the neighbourhood level.

The project will make both theoretical and practical (better planning and design) contributions toward achieving the UN SDGs 11, building sustainable cities and communities. The SHLC project looks at 14 case study cities in 7 countries, which studies all types of neighbourhoods. This proposed project will focus on the emerging middle-class settlements and the best practice of urban planning and neighbourhood design found in the 14 cities.  

Supervisors:

Professor Ya Ping Wang (University of Glasgow)

Professor Keith Kintrea (University of Glasgow)


Urban Analytics and the Housing System

Project Description:

Rapidly evolving technologies are opening up new possibilities for social housing and the housing system more broadly.    Airbnb is a prominent housing example of market matching technology which has already shown its power in cities around the world, reducing housing availability for local residents.  However, such technologies might also be adapted for better matching of applicants to social housing opportunities and to enable more fluid house exchange processes within a traditionally immobile sector.  At the same time, the increasing use of commercially developed, data-driven algorithms in housing allocation processes have the potential to open new fault lines of inequality with those predicted, for example, as more likely to fall into rent arrears excluded from  mainstream housing opportunities.  The research proposed here would take a broad view of the positive and negative potential of new technologies on housing systems within cities.

Supervisors:


Future Cities/Caring Cities

Project Description:

As urban populations age and live longer with chronic conditions, the home becomes a crucial, preferred site for the delivery of care and health care.  The project proposed here would examine the potential of new technologies to provide innovative models of care delivery and help manage diseases such as dementia.  Many technological aids and adaptations are already available (such as motion sensors, alarms that can connect to remote surveillance and so on), but technological developments potentially allow a much more individualised approach to monitoring health, and voice recognition (for example) makes such technology more readily usable, even by those with impairments.  The research will explore the potential of the home to become a hub in an interconnected urban network between older people, health and care providers and each other, including the use of blockchain technologies to establish to develop and strengthen bonds of trust within these networks.

Supervisors:


Governing Change in the Intelligent City

Project Description:

The one certainty of ‘future cities’ is change. Fast, flexible, innovation processes impact upon fixed structures of governments and infrastructures. Cities are systems with diverse drivers of change emanating from different geographic scales and with policy responses from different, sectoral areas of government. City systems are complex, with multiple feedback mechanisms change is often recursive, and rarely self-regulating and they have significant spatially fixed components. City change is likely to be evolutionary and involve significant path dependencies. How will the governance of these complex city systems unfold in the decades ahead?

The growing interest in city futures is taking place as major debates have unfolded around the idea of ‘smart cities’ and usually focused on how new technologies shape better decisions by firms, households and governments. To avoid seeing technology as the only driver of change, this proposal explores the notion of the ‘intelligent city’ and how cities create, understand, value and effectively use knowledge in the processes of governing cities. OECD have highlighted the limitations on the economic governance of metropolitan areas and the ways in which metropolitan areas design and implement investment strategies, not least for infrastructure, will be at the forefront of research concerns.

 The ‘complex evolving system’ framework for describing and analyzing metropolitan evolution requires strategy and foresight processes that go beyond rational-planning-oriented modelling and forecasting to an ‘emergent’ view of strategy. That approach explores how we observe, understand and learn from change processes. The ‘intelligent city’ explores the idea of how cities learn, plan, adapt and change.

The first task in this project would be to set out a clear conceptual framework linking evolving complex systems and the requirements for knowledge based emergent strategies. The second task is to identify the nature and rationality of the governance system in place within a metropolitan area, for instance whether the boundaries match functional economic areas and whether government is unitary or fragmented. The association between different structure of government and governance and the knowledge and foresight system in place also require to be explored. The third task is to identify the knowledge-learning systems within cities including foresight/analytical capabilities, capacities related to policy and strategy innovation, monitoring and evaluation skills. This links to the fourth task of assessing the institutional structures within a metropolitan area that encourage cross-sectoral partnerships and collaborations in policy learning, including the roles of universities in metropolitan information, analysis and innovation systems.  In the wake of devolution and city deals in England some city-regions have developed powerful new metropolitan thinking capacities (Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle) that are university based/influenced. Many have not, including Glasgow and Edinburgh, and the evolution and effectiveness of these ‘intelligence mechanisms’ needs to be assessed. The studentships would involve an audit of how knowledge, and what knowledge, is used in city policy making.

Supervisors:


Future Cities: Managing for Productivity

Project Description:

Perspectives on cities as locations of economic decline, concentrated disadvantage and physical decay have been replaced by the notion of cities as disproportionately strong contributors to economic growth and innovation. There is, however, a strong case for reassessing how city economies are now likely to evolve. This is, in part, because emerging new technologies will shape new patterns of consumer demands, production possibilities and skill requirements. New communications possibilities may reshape the spatial forms and very meanings of ‘city’ as well as the technologies for planning and delivering urban infrastructure and services. A further compelling argument for re-scrutinizing the ‘triumph of cities’ is that there are already signs in larger metropolitan areas that successful firms and skilled, younger households are leaving metropolitan cores at unprecedented rates. High housing costs, increasing travel times and environmental dis-amenities are now ‘consuming’ agglomeration gains and eroding competitiveness benefits.

One, simplistic, response to these emerging patterns and problems is to argue that ‘planning’ constrains supply side responses. It is equally clear that the nature of the construction sector and decisions about infrastructure provision may also underpin rising congestion costs. Whether coping with new, flexible technologies or older, inflexible systems of provision for spatially fixed capital within cities (housing and infrastructure) it is essential that national and metropolitan governments need to have some sense of how productivity gains are to be secured and then protected in the decades ahead.

Progress in understanding these issues requires; first, a conceptual frameworks for monitoring, planning and assessing the productivity effects of metropolitan infrastructure provision; second, application of this framework (using quantitative research techniques wherever possible) to a number of cities, including Glasgow and Edinburgh; third, in consultation with engineering and management colleagues, an identification of city-relevant innovations to 2030, and assessment of the likely impacts of such changes on city demands, infrastructure provision and usage; finally, an assessment how such changes need to be managed in metropolitan economic policies to ensure that congestion effects induced by change do not reduce the real benefits of growth.

Supervisors:


University of Edinburgh Led Projects

University of Edinburgh Led Projects

Smarter Modelling for Future Cities

Project Description:

Building on “Performance Measures”, this project will build the basis for smarter modelling that will lead to city administrations of Edinburgh and Glasgow having a management tool to monitor, analyse and make judgements using evidence from accumulated data. Each city will have its own aspirations and priorities that will lead to different goal-setting, so models should allow for variable goals and/or weightings. This multidisciplinary research will be overseen by academics in infrastructure, architecture, planning, data analytics, social and political studies, economics, business, health and wellbeing, and criminology in close collaboration with city administrators in both jurisdictions. Once a settled set of outcomes is defined, the model of a resilient, sustainable infrastructure system of systems can be postulated and tested as a platform for studying multiple future scenarios in relation to the attainable goals, taking due account of system interdependencies and the underlying uncertainty implicit in forecasting.

Supervisors:

 


Performance Measures for Future Cities

Project Description:

Our urban infrastructure has developed incrementally in response to decisions made by politicians, city administrators and business leaders to encourage economic development, meet social needs, and maintain a sustainable future. But the measures of success for urban collective living are poorly defined, and lack settled consensus, and models that reflect the interdependency of the systems of systems that form an economically strong, socially vibrant and environmentally responsible city have yet to be built. This research will explore the critical success factors for the infrastructure of future cities in the context of established performance indicators such as the Sustainable Development Goals.

Measurement and monitoring of appropriate performance outcomes is central to improving our planning of the provision of the right infrastructure for future cities at the right time; for instance, it has been recognised as such in a recent Centre for Digital Built Britain workshop on infrastructure planning.

Supervisors:


Share City

Project Description:

Economic systems and their attendant technologies change at a rapid rate and inevitably influence cities. Digital innovations and their social consequences are likely to become a feature of the next twenty-five years for architecture and urbanism. Such changes are already evident in the concept of the sharing economy. The sharing economy aims to democratise finance and to challenge dominant and highly corporatised methods of exchange. Some assert that finance is being infiltrated and challenged by a kind of crowd-sourced entrepreneurship enabled by the digital marketplace. Though the reality and benefits of such initiatives are under challenge, it is worth examining the approaches to city infrastructures they encourage, not least through the metaphors they invoke. 

Supervisor:


Fire Risk Reduction in Rapidly Developing Cities

Project Description:

Fire is a leading cause of death and injury around the globe, accounting for 96% of the global fire fatalities (180,000 – 300,000 people a year) in lower- middle- income countries (LMIC). Urbanisation will increase the populations of cities in the Global South to extreme proportions. The rapid expansion and development of cities in LMIC is exposes large populations to greater fire risks.

This project will look at how to categorise, map and mitigate against fire risks in developing cities, taking advantage of experimental and social science data and remote sensing techniques developed by the IRIS-Fire project.

Supervisor:


Machine Learning for Mobility and Urban Analytics: Managing Complexity at Speed

Project Description:

Urban activities generate complex data and interactions — for example, mobility patterns, traffic behaviour, IoT information and economic transactions. Traditional learning methods do not apply readily to these complex systems, they are often slow in operation, and raise concerns of privacy and safety. 

This project will develop fundamental machine learning techniques for urban analytics, with a focus on understanding and prediction of mobility, and optimisation of transportation systems. The project will enable more meaningful insights and faster operations on complex, dynamic data, where traditional methods fail. It will include privacy enhancements for learning algorithms, making them more widely applicable. 

The applications of these techniques will range from mobility and transportation management to optimisation and planning of city-scale infrastructures. In longer term, they will support development and adoption of future technologies like electric and autonomous vehicles. 

Supervisor:


Improving the Efficiency of Pedestrian Models and Live Signalling in Transport Hubs to Facilitate Flow in Emergency and Non-emergency Scenarios

Project Description:

Mass transit in cities will require live monitoring and signalling to direct crowd movement through transport hubs. Recent research from crowd psychology has demonstrated that crowd members are likely to alter their speed and distance walked in order to maintain close proximity with fellow group members instead of using optimal space available, and in emergencies crowd members can quickly coordinate behaviour to evacuate. Despite this, current models of pedestrian behaviour neglect the effect of group psychology on movement. Research in mass emergencies has demonstrated that peoples’ compliance with directions is affected by the information given and perception of the source of the information. We aim to improve the efficiency and design of pedestrian models and live signalling for normal operations and emergency egress through increased understanding of crowd psychology and communication methods in these scenarios.

Supervisors:


Functionality Graded Low Carbon Concrete

Project Description:

The UK Green Building Council reported that around 10% of the UK’s CO2 emissions are directly associated with construction, from which approximately half of the emissions are from cement production. Optimising the use of less polluting construction materials is key to curbing the emission of CO2. Study that provides innovations in utilising waste and recycled materials for realising eco-friendly concrete construction is one significantly effective solution.

Through systematic investigation approaches at multiple scales from the nano-material chemistry to elementary structural engineering, we aspire to develop practical methods for design and construction of cement-less concrete that uses industry/ municipal wastes as binders and aggregates. A series of analytical and experimental works also lead to formulating feasible ways of engineering the concrete mixes for varying spatial composition profiles (functionally graded) to increase functionality.

The project also explores the use of 3D printing technology to increase cost-effectiveness of the varying composition profiles fabrication. It will provide good platform to link up with some potential collaborators including University College London, EMPA and Denmark Technological University.

Supervisors: 


Structures Prognosis Through Listening and Interior Visualisation

Project Description:

The estimated cost of maintenance and repair of concrete infrastructure due to various forms of deterioration totalled up at approximately $100 billion dollars all around the world. Similarly, billions of pounds and various kinds of resources are used annually for such exercises in the UK. Ensuring desired serviceability of infrastructures via proper maintenance schemes is prime to sustaining resilience in the UK development. This can be achieved with successful implementation of in-situ condition assessment for infrastructures. The project will focus on the development of integrated instrumentation, measurement and data processing methodologies for evaluating structural health and integrity for service capitalising on the ‘minimum sensor, maximum data’ concept. 

One of the doable approaches is through revolutionising the use of stress wave techniques by incorporating effective machine learning procedures in its data clustering and processing for increased cost-effectiveness and dynamism in use for various scenarios, e.g. detection and quantification of corrosion damage, structural cracks, fatigue damage. Another highlight innovation of this project will be the incorporation of real time 3D stress wave tomography derived from the monitored wave data, making the whole assessment more comprehensive and reliable by not just listening (stress/acoustic waves) but also visualisation of the structure interior. This project is part of the exciting collaboration with Kyoto University and some major infrastructure operators in Japan. Linkage with relevant UK industries is planned.

Supervisor:


VirSec: A Virtual Reality Platform for Cost-effective Usability and Security Evaluations

Project Description

Evaluating the usability and security of authentication mechanisms using traditional means is costly and inefficient in Future Cities’ large scale systems. Consider a case where researchers are evaluating authentication via mid-air gestures in a smart home. They would have to 1) prototype a smart home in their lab, and 2) place cameras at all angles from which observation attacks can be anticipated. This is costly and fundamentally limited in creating the conditions necessary to understand all aspects that influence the usability and security. Motivated by the success of paper prototyping in user-centered evaluation, we propose using virtual reality (VR) for as a high fidelity prototyping tool for evaluating usability and security of authentication mechanisms. This would reduce research costs as researchers would prototype using virtual 3D models, and create scenarios that are otherwise infeasible such as studying observation resistance from infinite angles around the user. A key research question is to understand which aspects of usability and security will have matching results when studied in VR and in the real world.

 Supervisors

  • Mohamed Khamis: Lecturer of Human-centred Security at the University of Glasgow
  • Kami Vaniea: Lecturer and Assistant Director of Academic Center of Excellence in Cyber Security at the University of Edinburgh