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Cities are our future. We are looking to start a joint, cross-school programme on sustainable, innovative cities based at LSE and led by the Grantham Research Institute (including Nicholas Stern) and LSE Cities.


The aim is to promote better informed decisions around growth, productivity, jobs and competitiveness, recognising the economic case for supporting and enabling innovative, sustainable cities.


What distinguishes this work is the adoption of dynamic economics, which quantifies the reinforcing urban relationship between innovation, productivity and resource-/carbon-efficiency. This means analysing and understanding the human and physical feedbacks from technologies, to finance, to infrastructure, to behaviour and institutions, noting how inclusive governance, common understanding and civic engagement drive innovation and foster change.


By the same token, it means assessing and overcoming the barriers to low-carbon deployment and financing. This provides the key to unlocking the waiting game that hinders ambitious action on the deployment of clean technologies. The aim is to place cities centre-stage in national governments’ infrastructure and ‘industrial’ strategies and raise questions of governance structures, devolution and fiscal streamlining and coordination.


Sustainable development means focusing on wealth and the bulk of human wealth is increasingly found in cities. It means investing in human, social, and physical infrastructure and the maintenance of vital renewable and non-renewable resources.


The programme is based on the broad understanding that decisions made at the urban level over the next two decades will determine the patterns of production, behaviour and governance that humanity locks into and the innovative efficiency with which it utilises the earth’s resources. It also recognises that great cities are built around people. Sharing ideas and knowledge drive innovation in technologies, institutions and behaviours.

This means designing attractive cities where creative people want to live and be inspired. It also means involving communities committed to self-improvement. Innovation is at the heart of the process of human wellbeing and sustainability.


The results of the project will include actionable propositions designed to maximise collaboration between local and central government. We would also like to work with UK, European and US cities (where issues of productivity, infrastructure and industrial strategy as well as the evolving relationship between Federal and local government put urban regions at the fore) and eventually extend our analysis to the US.


We think this programme is not only worthwhile, but desperately overdue and we believe the LSE is the right place for it. If you know who might be interest in helping raise funding for this, please do drop me a line.

Related articles include:

This is humankind's 'great urbanisation' era. We must do it right, or the planet will pay’

Zenghelis, D and Stern, N., November 2016

The Guardian

‘Climate change and cities: a prime source of problems, yet key to a solution’

Zenghelis, D. and Stern, N., November 2015

The Guardian

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