The Urban Big Data Centre has played an internationally leading role in urban informatics and the use of emerging forms of data to address complex policy questions in a global context. 

We have been cited in several forums as a world-leading data infrastructure enabling access to information for better research, urban management and business innovation [1] [2] [3].

Data sharing and innovation

We have played a leadership role in the Research Data Alliance’s Urban Data Interest Group. The Research Data Alliance (RDA) was established in 2013 by the European Commission, the US National Science Foundation (NSF), the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the Australian Government’s Department of Innovation with the goal of building the social and technical infrastructure to enable open sharing of data.  The Urban Data Interest group contributes to knowledge underpinning building comparable indicators of Urban Quality of Life (QoL) in a global setting.

Official national statistics

We are leading in embedding the use of novel forms of data in official national statistics. Within the UK, we are working with the Office of National Statistics in support of their data needs. We are playing a similar role with European agencies. For example, we are a partner of the Statistics Netherlands Center for Big Data Statistics, particularly in the areas of mobility and economic statistics, and will deliver training to staff of Eurostat, the official statistical agency of the European Commission in the area of “Urban big data for trusted smart statistics”.

International policy and practice

We play an advocacy role globally on the importance of urban data and the issues and challenges in making an impact through data. Examples are input to the US Government Accountability Office report to US Congress on 'Data and Analytics Innovation: Emerging Opportunities and Challenges' (PDF 8.2MB). Input was also provided recently to the US National Science Foundation’s Directorate of Civil, Mechanical and Manufacturing Innovation on 'Building a CMMI Data Infrastructure' in advising other leading scientific funding bodies on the power of data infrastructure. We have an MOU with the Australian Urban Research Infrastructure Network (AURIN) with which we have collaborated through our work with the RDA and on other issues.

Urban informatics and city data

UBDC supports international cities in their work on data in the spirit of using the power of urban informatics for the public good. The Cities of Helsinki and Tampere in Finland are examples where, within the Reboot Finland project funded by the European Regional Development Fund, we are assisting in developing the capability to create exploitable big data to be utilised within innovation ecosystems and platforms for agile digital enterprises.

Support to emerging economies - GCRF

The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) is a key component in delivering the UK Aid Strategy and ensures that the UK plays a leading role in tackling global challenges faced by emerging economies. Given our strong emphasis on urban inequalities and social equity, we are supporting institutions in other nations in the global south with training and capacity-building around how data can support a better understanding of complex topics.

One of the major contributions to GCRF that the UBDC contributes to is the Centre for Sustainable, Healthy and Learning Cities and Neighbourhoods (SHLC) funded by ESRC. This Centre, established in October 2017, seeks to strengthen research capacity among urban researchers, government officials and policymakers in developing countries and the UK, and conduct comparative studies of urbanisation and urban neighbourhoods to address the challenges caused by large-scale rural to urban migration. In line with the extended understandings of learning found in the Sustainable Development Goals, one strand of the research of SHLC will add to the evidence base on how both formal education and non-formal, community-based learning can contribute to economic prosperity, wellbeing, and cultural and social development in urban settings.

The SHLC will use tools and expertise developed by the UBDC. We will also offer training to strengthen the capacity of early career researchers and PhD students from the UK and the global south, specifically around research methods, including the use of big data, GIS and spatial analysis.

Supporting other international organisations

We have also supported the work of other international organisations associated with developing nations. Examples are the Indo-US Science and Technology Forum which sponsored a workshop on Transport Informatics in December 2016 in the Indian Institute of Technology in Chennai, India, together with Iowa State University, where our role was to help with an invitation list and committee formation to draw in developers in transport and smart cities in India. UBDC has supported a similar workshop on Big Data Smart Transportation Analytics in Shanghai, China, jointly organized by Purdue University and Tongji University, Shanghai, China.


[1] Geospatial Big Data Handling Theory and Methods: A Review and Research Challenges (PDF 0.87MB)
[2] Spatial Enablement in a Smart World (PDF 7.33MB)
[3] Urban Analytics Data Infrastructure: Critical SDI for Urban Management in Australia (PDF 0.73MB)