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Sustainable Urban and Regional Futures


What are the critical challenges facing city-regions in different national contexts and how does this relate to different forms of governance, capacity and expertise?

SURF continues to track and inform changes in urban and regional policies, programmes and institutions with the aim of producing work designed to promote more effective responses to these questions.

We have worked with agencies at international, national and sub-national levels to produce critical insights and frameworks for action that are designed to improve the effectiveness of policy-making processes and governance arrangements.

Cities and regions have been recognised widely as having renewed political, economic and cultural significance in addressing the major challenges of the 21st century, from the need for global/local markets, to redressing the skills deficit, to combating climate change or providing test-beds for the development of innovative products, processes and markets.

Two critical challenges relate to the development of innovative, knowledge-based economies and building low-carbon futures. The capacity and capability of cities and regions to respond to such issues is inherently linked to governance structures and policy processes.

Central questions which inform SURF’s work include:

  • What are the comparative contexts and cultures in which urban and regional areas can make transitions to more sustainable, knowledge-based futures?
  • What are the appropriate governance structures, scales of action, roles and responsibilities for managing complex contemporary challenges?
  • How are cities and regions differentially positioned in relation to national and international hierarchies?
  • How well do central / national policy-making processes incorporate sub-national views and perspectives?
  • What is the role of a wide range of Government policies and expenditure choices, beyond specific urban and regional initiatives, in urban and regional development?
  • How is sub-national intelligence generated, captured and shared?
  • How can the competitiveness of cities and regions influence, or be reconciled with, the aims of social inclusion and sustainable development?