More than half the world’s population lives in urban areas and it is estimated by 2050, that number will increase to 68 per cent. However, with urbanisation comes challenges such as meeting the needs of growing urban populations and addressing the demand for housing, transportation, energy systems, and infrastructure while ensuring the benefits of urbanisation are inclusive, equitable and sustainable. 

To address these challenges, UNSW Sydney has launched the UNSW Cities Institute, an independent institute working in partnership with government and industry to reinvent cities for sustainable, healthy, prosperous and socially just urban futures.  

The Cities Institute draws on UNSW’s trademark disciplinary depth(1), breadth and excellence across the built environment, climate change, engineering and energy, health, design, economics, social sciences and justice as well as its impact to drive positive change.  

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“Cities are one of humanity’s best inventions, fueling innovation, prosperity and diversity. But many are no longer fit for purpose. Increasingly they exacerbate climate change, ill health, and inequalities. They lack agility and resilience. We are optimistic that it doesn’t have to be that way,” says Professor Claire Annesley, Dean of UNSW Arts, Design & Architecture.  

“Our approach is to lead and accelerate positive change by building cross-disciplinary teams together with government, industry and communities, working together to develop innovative solutions to the problems facing our cities and our planet. This means getting climate change experts to work with population health, housing and transport experts to design and deliver a more resilient urban future.”  

The Cities Institute will curate multidisciplinary research projects and partnerships to make sure we are addressing and solving the most pressing issues in a joined-up and long-term way.  

“We consulted widely with government, industry, communities and researchers to identify the first priority issues for the Cities Institute to tackle. These are affordable housing, active cities and urban governance,” says Prof Annesley.  


Prof Brungs says the Cities Institute will work locally to design innovative solutions that can be scaled and exported globally. Photo: UNSW

Minister for Cities Rob Stokes said as global city regions expand, urban problems become more pressing and more complex.

“Achieving sustainable urban development is one of the most urgent policy challenges of our time. The UNSW Cities Institute will become a global powerhouse for urban research in a time of change," he said.

The Institute will be locally focused and globally orientated, combining a future-focused innovative design and research agenda with deep connections to place and the region’s First Nations peoples.  

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The Institute is establishing its base in Parramatta, a meeting place and crossroads of First Nations peoples for more than 60,000 years.  

UNSW’s Innovation Hub in Parramatta places the institute at the intersection of NSW’s Six Cities strategy as the place where the east-west and north-south axis intersect.

The Six Cities Mega Region provides a living laboratory in which to design, develop and test innovative solutions to improve the liveability and prosperity of cities, including sustainable and resilient housing and transport solutions,” explains Geoff Roberts, Chief Commissioner of the Greater Cities Commission and member of the steering committee that established the Cities Institute.   

Prof Brungs says the Cities Institute will work locally to design innovative solutions that can be scaled and exported globally.  

“This means working closely with the NSW Government and the Greater Cities Commission, Transport for NSW and local councils and communities to design and test solutions which will have significant impact. We live in exciting times where our technology, our imagination and our connectivity can result in profoundly different approaches.” 

“The UNSW Cities Institute will also facilitate global dialogues on cities through a UNSW Cities Dialogue and train the next generation of global city shapers,” says Professor Brungs. 

The UNSW Cities Institute will provide access to world-class research through an education program. A suite of products for city leaders across the globe will include a Master of Cities, Graduate Certificates, Diplomas and micro-credentialled short courses, including Digital Twins and Managing Urban Heat.  


1. UNSW Cities Institute is a pan-university, cross-faculty initiative that represents all of UNSW’s cities’ interests across all faculties, including relevant research centres and labs. The institute is a multi-disciplinary venture, drawing on city expertise from seven faculties and over 10 schools and centres across the University, as well as strategic partners. One significant collaborator will be the Cities Futures Research Centre. 

The City Futures Research Centre was established in 2005 at UNSW and has developed into a national leader in scholarly applied public interest research about our cities. It undertakes world-class research in urban planning, housing, compact cities, health-built environments and urban analytics. The Centre conducts independent research and provides evidence-based inputs into contemporary urban policy debates and the planning of future cities.