Cities & Infrastructure

The Cities & Infrastructure Programme funds interdisciplinary research projects that address the challenge of creating and maintaining sustainable and resilient cities, with the aim of informing relevant policies and interventions in developing countries. The programme is run by the British Academy on behalf of all the National Academies, as part of the Global Challenges Research Fund.
Start date
Up to 16 months
Programme status

Funded by the UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (through the Global Challenges Research Fund).

The Cities and Infrastructure programme funds seventeen projects that aim to produce policy-relevant evidence and interventions geared towards improving people’s lives in fragile, conflict-affected states or in developing countries. We issued an open call for applications (on behalf of all UK national academies), inviting proposals from UK-based researchers across all disciplines. Applicants were asked to develop interdisciplinary, problem-focused projects addressing the challenge of creating and maintaining sustainable and resilient cities in developing countries, while recognising the need to interweave mitigation and adaptation.

Projects were required to demonstrate an innovative approach, yielding new conceptual understanding on one or more of the following four sub-themes:

a) Planning: In the context of the large, dispersed and unplanned cities of the global south, planning for resilience becomes a matter of collaborative initiative involving a host of actors and sentient infrastructures. This requires mobilising plural and interdisciplinary knowledges, both for understanding and for acting in intelligent ways. 

b) People: Human vulnerability and resilience go hand in hand. The poor are deprived in plural ways, but also forced to become resilient subjects, making use of the city and their know-how in imaginative ways.

c) Infrastructure: Cities are held together by infrastructures, which also instantiate and regulate social life in quite strong ways. In the global south the infrastructures are broken, incomplete, badly regulated, underfunded and often reliant on vernacular improvisations. Technical solutions alone will go only so far, and are expensive.

d) Habitat: The urban habitat is central to resilience, in the form of lived experience, the consequences of emissions and heating, the formation of symbolic and public culture, the consequences of urban architecture and design. This is an obvious terrain for interdisciplinary work on jointly making sense of how habitats can be managed as a silent form of 'atmospheric' regulation.

The Cities and Infrastructure programme is led by Caroline Knowles, Professor of Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her research and publications explore the ways in which particular strands of globalisation, in the movements of objects and people, compose and connect cities.

Programme highlights

Watering Mexico City

Creating inclusive urban space in Lebanon

Mitigating road infrastructure flooding in Vietnam

Infrastructure and women’s safety in India

Urban development and dislocation in Lahore

Don’t dance on the road: advice on navigating Kampala’s transport infrastructure

Everyday climate change in Ghana

Formalising informal cities: contested space in Nairobi

Reimagining Kampala

Still thinking: refugees’ health and healthcare in Nairobi

Health in an informal Ugandan settlement

Living on the slope

Improving seismic safety in Kathmandu’s World Heritage Sites

Promoting self recovery after the Nepal earthquake

God's Lagos

Big Cities – Small Changes: Thinking Creatively through Urban Infrastructure audio recordings

Violence and vulnerabilities

Living in displacement

Knowledge and change

Possibilities and small changes

Contact details

Please contact [email protected] or call 020 7969 5220 for further information.


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