UCL Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction


IRDR co-hosts £20m UKRI Tomorrow’s Cities Hub

19 December 2022

IRDR co-hosts the Tomorrow’s Cities Hub, a £20million grant for interdisciplinary risk reduction research and action.

View of tower blocks under construction in Kibera, Nirobi, Kenya

 IRDR’s interdisciplinarity, international research leadership and action-oriented outlook make a perfect home from which to co-host the Tomorrow’s Cities Hub,” Mark Pelling, Tomorrow’s Cities Hub Co-Director.

Tomorrow’s Cities is the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) Urban Disaster Risk Hub – a five-year global interdisciplinary research hub that aims to bring multi-hazard disaster risk management to the centre of urban policy and practice.

It is one of 12 UKRI GCRF Hubs funded in 2019 as part of the UK AID strategy, putting research at the heart of efforts to deliver the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The project is being co-directed by the IRDR’s Prof Mark Pelling with John McCloskey from the University of Edinburgh (who is also principal investigator). Other IRDR staff involved include Roberto Gentile (co-investigator and work package leader), Thaisa Comelli and Yahya Gamal (Research Fellows) as well as PhD students Mark Ojal and Abby Ewan. Professor Carmine Galasso – joint with UCL’s Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering – leads the Hub’s Risk Working Group and is part of the Hub’s Senior Management Team with Mark Pelling, John McCloskey and the Hub’s Manager Joanna Pitt. Outside IRDR, Tomorrow’s Cities colleagues based at UCL include Gemma Cremen (co-investigator and work package leader), Augustin Guibaud (co-investigator), Fabrizio Nocera and Leandro Iannacone (Research Fellow) and PhD student Chenbo Wang, all based in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering. Michel Wahome (Department of Science and Technology Studies) leads the Hub’s Monitoring, evaluation, and learning – also known as MEL. 

Globally, more than two billion people living in cities of low-to-middle-income countries are exposed to multiple hazards such as floods, earthquakes, landslides, volcanoes and fires, threatening the cyclical destruction of their lives and livelihoods. With urban areas expanding at unprecedented rates, this number is expected to reach four billion by 2050.

Failure to integrate multi-hazard disaster risk into urban planning and decision-making presents a major barrier to sustainable development, including the single greatest global challenge of eradicating poverty in all its forms.

But this global challenge is also a major opportunity. As 60% of the area expected to be urban by 2030 remains to be built, we can reduce disaster risk in tomorrow’s cities by design.

The project’s aim is to catalyse a transition from crisis management to multi-hazard risk-informed planning and decision-making that strengthens the voice and capacity of the urban poor.

Tomorrow’s Cities is enhancing risk-sensitive urban development through a global network of integrated research programmes led by local teams in low-to-middle-income countries. The work is interdisciplinary and coproduced with local residents, city and national housing, infrastructure and land-use planners.

Drawing from his European Geosciences Union blog, Roberto Gentile said: “Being co-owned from the start by city actors, including the urban poor enables inclusive, evidence-based policy advocacy and debate around risk-informed urban planning and design”.

The Tomorrow’s Cities Decision Support Environment (TCDSE) brings together six main elements which are adapted to fit individual city risk and development contexts:

  • Institutional mapping, risk and policy analysis
  • Future visioing for low-income urban development and risk reduction
  • Future scenario maping into geographic information systems
  • Computational modelling of hazard and risk
  • Negotistion of prefeences for risk management given desired urban planning futures
  • Action planning for forward planning

Initial work with partners in Istanbul, Kathmandu, Nairobi and Quito is now being globalised in collaboration with new cities, UNDRR and other international partners including the United Cities and Local Government Network.

For more information, visit the project website: www.tomorrowscities.org

Image: Tower blocks under construction in Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya. genvessel, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons