Future of cities

Foresight project which looked at the opportunities and challenges facing UK cities over the next 50 years.

Cities matter to the UK. They are the concentrations of the UK’s population, trade, commerce, cultural and social life. They are also the sites where most of the UK’s future growth, both population and economic, is forecast to occur. The UK’s future is now closely linked to that of its cities.

Science can play an invaluable role in supporting the analysis, design and action shaping this urban future. The aim of this project was to provide policy makers with the evidence, tools and capabilities needed to support policy decisions in the short term to lead to positive outcomes for the UK’s cities in the long term.

The project was organised around 6 main themes:

  • living in cities
  • urban economies
  • urban metabolism
  • urban form
  • urban infrastructure
  • urban governance

In order to develop the evidence base, we organised 19 city visits, seed-funded a number of local city projects, and commissioned a series of working papers, essays and blogs. We created a number of forums to uncover means by which policy-makers can increasingly think through a ‘cities lens’. We also developed a number of future scenarios to allow policy makers to explore critical policy options for city development.

Expert group

The project was guided by a lead expert group, who provided oversight and ensured that relevant evidence and research was used.

Project reports

Final outputs from the Future of Cities project.

Working papers

The project is informed by a number of independent working papers, developed by experts from across academia and industry, and peer reviewed by independent academics. These papers provide analysis of the future issues facing cities in the UK.


The project is also informed by a number of independent essays, developed by important thinkers in the future of cities arena.


Scenarios are versions of the future which can be represented by a combination of images and text. They can be used to help policy makers identify the best options for the present, as well as take advantage of opportunities in the future.

Workshop reports


Published 26 June 2013
Last updated 22 August 2016 + show all updates
  1. Added new scenario papers and a report on UK-China relationships.

  2. Added the overview of evidence report.

  3. Added reports on the science of cities and foresight for cities.

  4. Added reports on UK and aspirational scenarios.

  5. Added report on a Rochdale workshop.

  6. Added essay on current foresight practice in cities.

  7. 'Future of cities: city leadership in the UK' added to working papers.

  8. Added essay on cities and health.

  9. Added final report on graduate mobility.

  10. Added essays on land value capture and mega transport projects.

  11. Added essays on urban commons and growth coalitions.

  12. Added essay on universities and cities and workshop report on technology.

  13. 'Future of cities: urban metabolism' added to working papers.

  14. 'Future of cities: ecosystem services' added to working papers.

  15. Added essay on development underground.

  16. Added 2 essays on smart cities.

  17. 'Future of cities: public policy' added to working papers.

  18. Added essays on green infrastructure, materials, and 'peak car'.

  19. 'Future of cities: land, rent and housing in UK cities' added to working papers.

  20. 'Future of cities: water and cities' added to essays.

  21. 'Future of cities: coping with change' added to working papers.

  22. 'Future of cities: what is the global view?' essay added.

  23. 'Invest to save' essay added.

  24. Sustrans essay on active travel added.

  25. Cultural dimension of cities working paper added.

  26. Added essay on London and the UK system of cities

  27. Added 'The business of cities' essay and the international seminar report.

  28. Added 'Future cities: comparative urban governance' (WP10)

  29. Added working papers on economic performance (WP4) and a visual history of the future (WP14).

  30. Working paper on the language of Future Cities added.

  31. First 3 working papers published under supporting evidence.

  32. First published.