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City Futures

Managing change in Future Cities.

Newcastle City Futures is developing a radical new model of urban development to tackle complex challenges facing our cities such as:

  • An ageing population
  • Economic pressures
  • Congestion
  • Extreme weather events

The project’s uniqueness lies in its approach to involving everyone in the city in the development of its future. Where in the past single sectors, disciplines, agencies or businesses worked independently to provide solutions, Newcastle City Futures provides a new way to harness the creative thinking and expertise of diverse groups of people.

Professor Mark Tewdwr-Jones of the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape leads the project. He brings together experts from academia, government and public and voluntary sectors to work with citizens and industry leaders such as IBM and Engie.

By taking a ‘whole city’ approach to problem-solving, the collaborative project brings together a unique body of expertise from 22 partners across 20 disciplines including: 

  • Arts and humanities
  • Creative industries
  • Planning
  • Civil engineering
  • Computer sciences
  • Health sciences

Using its partners’ latest environmental monitoring, urban modelling, data analysis and visualisation tools, the project aims to establish Newcastle as a test-bed for urban innovation. It also links together the three National Innovation Centres based in Newcastle on ageing, energy and smart data.



Urban development discussions

Newcastle City Futures is now scaling up its activities after becoming one of five Urban Living Partnership pilots funded by RCUK (now UK Research & Innovation) and the government's innovation agency, Innovate UK.

Its priority themes of ageing, sustainability and social renewal reflect Newcastle University’s world-class research strengths and the priority policy areas of partners Newcastle City Council and the North East LEP.

The team is now identifying specific ways in which this new model can contribute to shaping the design and delivery of services and decision-making that affect people’s everyday lives.

Twenty individual projects are in development, all brokered by Newcastle City Futures. These include a desire to develop:

  • Digitally enabled homes for an ageing society
  • Metro trains suitable for accessibility issues
  • Shopping streets with sustainable urban drainage
  • Art installations that communicate health and wellbeing messages

Successful public engagement

Professor Mark Tewdwr-Jones, who is a member of the Academy of Social Sciencesand a Fellow of the Royal Town Planning Institute, said: “Newcastle City Futures is strategically placed at the heart of a joined-up web of city-related research and development activity.

“It provides a unique way to facilitate discussions both across the University and with a whole range of organisations to generate exciting ideas and solutions to meet the needs of our urban areas. By shaping these conversations in the city continually we demonstrate not only what the University is good at, but what we are good for.”

The Newcastle City Futures model is now being studied by other cities facing similar complex urban problems, including Hong Kong and Groningen. Sydney has set up a Greater Sydney Commission based on Newcastle’s experience, linking together university research work to municipal government policy making.

Sir Alan Wilson, Chair, Government Office for Science Project on the Future of Cities, said: "Mark Tewdwr-Jones is an outstanding practitioner of the art of linking academia, civic authorities and communities on the city futures. His leadership of the Newcastle City Futures project has rightly been seen as a beacon that inspires other cities to follow suit."

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