Economic and Social Research Council
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First ESRC-CONACYT collaboration to support smart cities research

With support from the Newton Fund, the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Mexican Council for Science and Technology (CONACYT), are pleased to announce a new Mexico-UK binational programme of research which will enhance our understanding of smart cities. These projects will look at the changes in politics, quality of life and mobility. They will also explore the changes to cities that result from the interactions between smart city technologies and urban economies, redistribution of resources, climate change, disaster risk reduction, resilience and public policies.

With a joint investment of just over £2 million, four highly interdisciplinary and innovative projects are being launched. These are:

  • Empowering Citizen-Oriented Smart City Innovation in Mexico (ECOSCIM)
    Professor Alistair Marsh (University of Bristol) and Professor Juan Arellanes (Facultad de Estudios Globales Universidad Anáhuac México)
    Smart City innovation spends too much time focusing on management and engineering challenges - getting the technology to work - and not enough time thinking about where smart urbanism might be taking us. This project will develop a new method to help the Smart City innovation process. It will do this by working with citizens, community groups and policy makers in Mexico City. The project is seeking to make sure that innovation is oriented towards citizens' priorities and interests. The project will also examine the social and political organisations and institutions that Smart City projects need to interact with in order to understand how this broader context can act to enable or frustrate citizen-oriented projects.
  • Smart Urban Resilience: Enabling Citizen Action in Disaster Risk Reduction and Emergency Response
    Dr Andres Luque-Ayala (Durham University)and Dr Ana Diaz Aldret (Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas)
    Natural hazards in Mexico are a significant source of human suffering and economic loss. With earthquakes, hurricanes and floods, amongst others, generating estimated annual average losses of $2.9 billion USD, identifying novel, integrated and shared forms of disaster risk reduction (DRR) and emergency response is a national priority. Out of the 87.7 million Mexicans living in areas exposed to various natural hazards, 70% live in urban and 10% in peri-urban areas. Responding directly to these challenges, this project focuses on the intersection between smart/digital urbanism practices, disaster risk reduction (DRR) and emergency response to determine how the smart city (and associated technologies) can enable (or disable) citizen action in planning for and responding to disasters and emergencies. Our project recognizes, seeks to capitalize on, and find ways to strengthen the already significant role that civil society has historically played in DRR and emergency response in Mexico.
  • Resilient People need Resilient Ecosystems in Smart Cities (RESPiRES) mobility
    Mr Ian Thornhill (Bath Spa University) and Dr Rafael Calderón-Contreras (Metropolitan and Autonomous University – UAM Cuajimalpa)
    Smart and sustainable cities require functional and resilient ecosystems to support the health and well-being of their human population. Blue-spaces, such as wetlands, ponds, lakes and rivers, play a key role in the urban ecosystem and for human health in cities. Understanding the factors that favour healthy ecosystems will facilitate the design of governance systems that improve the provision of highly beneficial services for people. By eliciting place-based values and applying a standardised analytical framework in both Mexico City and Bristol, we will co-construct a suite of indicators for each city that facilitate purposeful monitoring of social-ecological resilience by local communities, and propose the best technologies available to the Smart City in order to do this. This applied interdisciplinary research will result in evidence-based recommendations for environmental monitoring in Smart Cities and influence both short- and long-term policies for urban resilience.
  • Developing co-created smart city solutions for managed adaptation and monitoring of hydro-meteorological climate change related risk in Mexico
    Dr Soledad Garcia Ferrari (University of Edinburgh) and Dr Milton Montejano-Castillo (Instituto Politécnico Nacional)
    The sharp growth of Latin American cities in the last decades has led to an increase of vulnerable communities in informal settlements on land exposed to hazards. As urban areas expand, current levels of vulnerability, socio-spatial segregation and inequality are aggravated by an increasing demand of housing. In order to reduce disasters it is essential to develop innovative, co-created strategies for managing risk and increase resilience. 'Smart city' approaches offer an integrative perspective, establishing the potential for emerging collaboration between city governments and technology contractors. Those challenges that 'smart cities approaches' are faced with reflect a need for context-specific strategies and solutions that respond to the needs of the most vulnerable. Therefore, the aim of this project is to enable city communities to monitor and mitigate climate change-related risks as well as enable communities to develop strategies to adapt to those risks through the co-creation of local, bottom-up initiatives using smart-city solutions.

This successful collaboration marks the first joint research programme between the ESRC and CONACYT. These projects started in January 2019 and will run from 26 to 30 months. 

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