Researchers from around the world debated the future challenges faced by cities as part of the Global Fellows Programme, hosted by Imperial.
In collaboration with Germany’s Technical University Munich (TUM), Imperial hosted a five-day conference to discuss topics such as the legacies of major sporting events, sustainable transport and city design.
Over half the world’s population now live in cities and it is estimated to increase to 66 per cent by 2050. This will bring challenges to healthcare provision, infrastructure, transport and resource allocation.
Experts from Imperial, Germany, Singapore, China, Australia and India met to discuss solutions to how cities can develop to improve quality of life for the urban populations of the future.
More than 1,000 post-grad students have participated in the Global Fellows Program over the last 10 years.
At this event, 20 researchers from Imperial joined participants from TUM, Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China, University of New South Wales in Australia and the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay - all of which are members of the GlobalTech Alliance, a network of the world’s top technological universities.
Imperials' Vice-President (International) Professor Maggie Dallman said: "These alliances enable collaboration and interaction across the world. Our research excellence relies on international collaboration.
"The Global Fellows Programme offers great opportunities to develop the skills you need and the chance to transcend boundaries."
Vice President Dallamn also urged the researchers to consider the role of universities in sustainable cities of the future.
The event was held at the London Velodrome at the Olympic Park in Stratford – which has gone through large regeneration since the London 2012 Olympics. The area is also being used for a trial of autonomous vehicles.
Reducing air pollution risk
Imperial’s Dr Audrey de Nazelle, who is part of the air pollution network, spoke about using digital smartphone-based technologies to engage people in healthy and sustainable transport behaviour.
Dr de Nazelle explained one of her research projects which involved tracking the daily commutes of 30 volunteers by using smartphone apps. They were then able to recommend alternative routes which were less affected by air pollution.
Dr de Nazelle said: “My proposal is make the transformation of cities happen through smart phone devices. Smartphones can engage citizens, researchers and stakeholders to co-create solutions. There is clear potential to influence behaviors and attitudes via smartphones and provide localized data and actionable feedback.”
Professor Jörg Königstorfer, from TUM, gave a talk on the legacies of major sport events, while there were also talks from TUM’s Professor Rolf Moeckel and Dr Jürgen Rauleder on the topics of mobility that promotes health and wellbeing, and urban air mobility.
Vincenzo Salerno from Imperial's School of Public Health talked about DynaHEALTH - a European Horizon 2020 funded research project focused on healthy and active ageing through reducing the risks of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
The aims of the Global Fellows programme are to help participants create new networks and learn about other research institutions and develop their ability to collaborate with international partners and interdisciplinary teams.
Building connections with Imperial
Imperial researcher Stephanie Hewitt, a first year PhD student from the Dyson School of Engineering, is focusing on providing designers with emotion based tools to help city residents make healthier decisions.
Stephanie said: “The opportunity to make links with other people is great. So many departments have existing links but because we are a new school opportunities like this are really exciting to make new connections.
“I’ve spoken with a professor from TUM because they have expertise that we don’t have at Imperial, such as building products for physical activity uptake.”
China: Shanghai Jiao Tong University
Zhan Gao, from China’s Shanghai Jiao Tong University, is already collaborating with Imperial in combustion and soot model research.
Zhan said: "My group in Shanghai has built collaborations with some groups at Imperial and I want to use this chance to meet professors at Imperial to talk about combustion issues. I hope to build networks internationally and communicate with other group members."
Germany: Technical University Munich
Laura Lang, from TUM in Germany, said: “The programme feeds quite well with my research, into future mobility management, because I try to combine shared electric vehicles to make transportation systems better for the population. It’s a good chance to network and get out of my comfort zone.”
Singapore: Nanyang Technological University
Xiupeng Shi, from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, is specialising in mobility and transportation research.
Xiupeng said: “I know Imperial as a very top university so it’s a good opportunity to meet some of its researchers and work well in interdisciplinary teams.
"We have had a lot of discussions and since we are all from different backgrounds it’s been very good for us to improve our understanding. It’s a good opportunity to collaborate with other top institutions and share and exchange ideas and co-interests.”
Australia: University of New South Wales
Malshika Dias, from the University of New South Wales in Australia, said: “From this programme I was interested in networking and building new relationships with Imperial. I don’t currently have collaborations with Imperial but I wanted to see if I could develop new research avenues.”
India: Indian Institute of Technology
Vinay Yadav, from the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay, said: “It’s an opportunity to build networks and partnerships. I hope it will help my research in the long term.”
Germany: Technical University Munich
Christopher Voss, an architectural academic from TUM in Germany, said “It’s an interesting theme since more and more people are living in cities and its apparent things have to change and our climate is changing.”
In cooperation with Tsinghua University, Imperial is offering an opportunity to participate in the Imperial-Tsinghua Global Fellows Programme: Global Climate Change and Energy.
This unique programme is open to doctoral researchers from all disciplines and consists of five days of professional skills training as part of a Climate Change and Energy themed programme.
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