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New cities and urban population research facility

From Griffith University

As cities and urban populations continue to grow and present vigorous new challenges, Griffith University is answering the call by establishing Australia’s largest research facility to tackle the issue.

The Cities Research Institute, which began as the Urban Research Program in 2004, has drawn in expertise from several disciplines and grown to have 70 academic members, 35-plus adjunct members and more than 120 PhD scholars who are committed to tackling these complex issues.

The research team, based across Griffith’s Gold Coast and Nathan campuses, is focussed on four key themes of intelligent infrastructure, quality places and changing communities, smart cities and coastal resilience and urban water.

Experts including transport and land use planners, civil engineers, system modellers, environmental scientists, economic and social researchers, coastal engineers, geographers and architects drive research in these themes and collaborate on a range of projects.

Institute Director Professor Paul Burton said current research projects were designed to bring real benefits to cities. They include:

  • Funding the future: Gold Coast Light Rail and value capture
  • Making the most of the river: benefits of CityCat ferry systems
  • Greening our cities: green infrastructure in a changing climate
  • Coastal resilience
  • Mapping the planet: building better cities with spatial sciences
  • The need for safe and secure housing: procuring social and affordable housing
  • Building resilience in the face of disasters: Informing Maintenance for Long-Term Sustainability

Professor Burton said incorporating the work of the Griffith Centre for Coastal Management expanded the Institute’s capacity to tackle one of biggest challenges facing most of Australia’s major cities – building coastal resilience in the face of climate change.

“We know that as our cities grow, they face increasingly complex problems that require more sophisticated and collaborative research if those problems are to be solved,” he said.

“The problems and challenges confronting cities are multi-dimensional and multi-faceted and we can, in theory, bring everyone together to face these issues. A lot of our work is focussed on the Gold Coast, Brisbane and southeast Queensland in general, but we’ve got collaborations with other countries, community groups, governments, industry and universities all around the world.”

One of those partnerships is the long-running 10-year relationship with the City of Gold Coast dealing with urban planning and coastal management issues.

Mayor Tom Tate, who officially launches the CRI on the Gold Coast on Thursday (May 25), said the Institute’s work was crucial to the long-term success and growth of the city.

“Planners and engineers from around the Asia-Pacific region are looking to learn from our experience and expertise in coastal management,” he said.

“I’m pleased to see the new Institute puts so much emphasis on doing high quality research that focuses on the real world challenges we face.

“While we can learn from other cities, the rest of the world has much to learn from us. The new Institute will help us share that story.”

Vice Chancellor Professor Ian O’Connor said that since the Urban Research Program was originally established in 2004, the group had quickly built its reputation as one of Australia’s leading centres for high quality and practically relevant research on the many and varied challenges facing cities in Australia and the wider region.

“The new Institute will continue its pioneering work on the processes of urban development and the creation of our built environments. And in undertaking this trans-disciplinary research, we will develop a deeper understanding of how our cities work, and how they can be made better and more resilient places,” he said.

With a large number researchers based within the 200-hectare Gold Coast Health & Knowledge Precinct (GCHKP), the CRI will work to attract commercial and research partners to co-locate, with a focus on how the latest in smart technology, which the GCHKP will showcase, can improve both the liveability and economies of cities.

“The GCHKP will be a showcase for smart sensor technology, big data and infrastructure innovation, and is a world-leading model for integrated economic development, so it is exciting to be able to draw on our own backyard to show how modern cities can move forward,” Professor Burton said.

“We believe there will be excellent commercial opportunities to export our city-building expertise to the world.”

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