The University of Glasgow has been awarded a grant worth £7.1 million to set up a GCRF Centre for sustainable, Healthy and Learning Cities and Neighbourhoods (CSHLC). The award is part of a £225m international research funding announcement made today by Higher Education Minister Jo Johnson. Altogether 37 interdisciplinary projects will receive investment over the next four years from the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) Research Councils UK Collective Fund, launched today.
The fund aims to build upon research knowledge in the UK and strengthen capacity overseas to help address some of the most serious challenges faced in the world.
Professor Ya Ping Wang, Chair in Global City Futures at the School of Social and Political Sciences, will lead this new Centre, in collaboration with colleagues in Urban Studies, Education, and Health and Wellbeing.
In the School of Education at the university, Professor Michael Osborne, Director of PASCAL in Europe, will take oversight of the impact element of the overall work of the centre, and Professor Michele Schweisfurth, Director of the Robert Owen Centre for Educational Change will take a lead in relation to its Education component. The emphasis on learning within the centre mirrors work within the PASCAL Observatory’s work in its learning city network and in particular the EcCoWell work, recently reviewed by Peter Kearns. A number of PASCAL’s collaborators including CityNet in Seoul, the UNESCO Chair in Community Engaged Research and Social Responsibility in Dehli and the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning in Hamburg are members of its international advisory group. Participatory Research in Asia in Dehli, and the host of the PASCAL Centre in Africa, the Centre for Local Economic Development at the University of Johannesburg will support dissemination of the centre’s work. The research agenda of the centre also reflects the work within the Robert Owen Centre on equity and systems change, as well as its commitment to breaking down the barriers between research, policy and practice. One of the thematic strands to ROC’s work is Education and International Development, and this new large-scale initiative complements several ongoing projects there.
The Centre’s core international partners include the Human Sciences Research Council and University of Witwatersrand in South Africa, the Ifakara Health Institute in Tanzania, the University of Rwanda, the National Institute of Urban Affairs in India, Khulna University in Bangladesh, Nankai University in China and the University of the Philippines.
The Centre will strengthen research capacity among urban researchers, government officials and policy makers in developing countries and the UK and conduct comparative studies of urbanisation and urban neighbourhoods to address the challenges caused by large-scale rural to urban migration.
The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) is a £1.5bn fund which supports cutting-edge research and innovation that address the global issues faced by developing countries. It forms part of the UK Government’s Official Development Assistance commitment and is overseen by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy; it is delivered through 17 delivery partners including the Research Councils, the UK Academies, UK Space Agency and funding bodies.
Jo Johnson, Minister for Universities and Science, said: “From healthcare to green energy, the successful projects receiving funding today highlight the strength of the UK’s research base and our leadership in helping developing countries tackle some of the greatest global issues of our time.
“At a time when the pace of scientific discovery and innovation is quickening, we are placing science and research at the heart of our Industrial Strategy to build on our strengths and maintain our status as science powerhouse.”
Andrew Thompson, RCUK GCRF Champion, said: “The 37 projects announced today build research capacity both here in the UK and in developing countries to address systemic development challenges, from African agriculture to sustainable cities, clean oceans, and green energy, to improved healthcare, food security, and gender equality.”
Professor Thompson added: “The ambition is to lay the foundations for a sustained and targeted research effort to address the most intractable challenges faced by the world today, climate change, disease and epidemics, food insecurity, rapid urbanisation, and forced displacement and protracted conflict.”
Professor Sir Mark Walport, Chief Executive designate of UK Research and Innovation, said: “In the same way that facing these global challenges requires a multi-national response, finding the solutions to them requires researchers from many disciplines to work together. The Global Challenges Research Fund makes that possible, and means that the UK’s world-leading researchers are able to get on with the job of working with each other and partners across the globe to make the world and society more sustainable.”
Professor Wang said: “The Glasgow-led GCRF Centre for Sustainable, Healthy and Learning Cities and Neighbourhoods (CSHLC) will enable us to work closely with our international partners to study the internal socio-economic and physical structures of 14 cities located in seven African and Asian countries. It will help us to make a significant contribution to the global debate, policy and practice about the development of sustainable cities and communities.”
The project will study urban transformations in both large and small cities in the following countries: South Africa – Cape Town and Johannesburg; Tanzania – Dar es Salaam and Ifakara; Rwanda – Kigali and Butare; India – Delhi and Meerut; Bangladesh – Dhaka and Khulna; China – Chongqing and Datong; Philippines – Manila and Batangas.
Films like Slumdog Millionaire and Favela Rising have brought to the public imagination vivid images of the slums of big, developing world cities. But what of other communities? They may be slightly less poor but still have their own problems, lacking services and the other ingredients of a productive urban life. The CSHLC will seek to fill this research capacity gap through training and comparative studies of different neighbourhoods.
Michele Schweisfurth, Co-Investigator, Professor of Comparative and International Education within the School of Education at the University of Glasgow, added: “This project provides us with opportunities to break down the disciplinary silos between urban studies, education and health. The future generation of urban planners will have new data and tools from this interdisciplinary study to inform their thinking about sustainable neighbourhoods and cities.”
Professor Ivan Turok, Co-Investigator and Executive Director of Economic Performance and Development, Human Sciences Research Council in South Africa, said: “This award will help us to understand better how people’s wellbeing and life chances are shaped by the neighbourhoods in which they grow up and live. It will also assist in identifying local policy interventions that can ameliorate poverty and deprivation.”
A total of 37 centres have been funded and more detail can be found here.