The future of our cities is in good hands

Aerial photo of the Gold Coast, Queensland

The building of great cities will be boosted with the launch of Griffith University’s newCities Research Centre.

Focusing on three main themes the world’s cities grapple with, thecentre will focus onbuilding intelligent infrastructure, creating quality places for people to live and work and managing growing diversity.

Launching this week, the multi-disciplinary centre brings togethermore than 50 researchers and academic staff and more than 70 PhD students.

Cities Research Centre founding director Professor Paul Burton said places like the Gold Coast and Brisbane had plenty to recommend them as ‘Smart Cities’ but they needed to make more of an effort to stand out on the world stage and truly representthattitle.

“Technology is at the heart of a lot of this and we need to ensure that basic boxes are ticked like telecommunications infrastructure,” he said. “But then we need to take technology and use it to improve the liveability of our cities, tackling the challenges that are holding them back.

“If you look at something like parking problems or traffic congestion and then work out how technology could be used to solve a lot of the associated frustrations, these are the things that truly smart cities are doing.”

The Gold Coast skylineProfessor Burton said the Gold Coast in particular was “starting to assemble the ingredients” needed to be a Smart City — but there was more work to be done. “We have a great climate and fantastic natural environment, with lots of lifestyle advantages. We have some excellent universities here and all that is important,” he said.

Regulatory environment

“But we need to clear the way for individuals to be able to do great things and that is about the local and state government creating a flexible environment where people can succeed, but also learn from their failures. The right regulatory environment is crucial.”

Professor Burton said Smart Cities were also by definition welcoming to people from diverse backgrounds.

“You never know where the next big idea is going to come from and you need to keep your doors open to people of all kinds to have a chance of attracting them.

The inventor of the next Google is not going to want to live somewhere where people are narrow minded and unwelcoming,” he said.

Gold Coast skylineTheCities Research Centre will build on the work already accomplished by Griffith University’s Urban Research Program, which had been doing high quality research on cities and urban policy for more than 12 years.

The Urban Research Program, which preceded the Cities Research Centre, looked at a range of issues during the time it operated, including the impact of climate change on food security in cities and more recently how to capture increases in land value from public investment in infrastructure, such as light rail.

The Urban Research Program also developed the VAMPIRE (Vulnerability Assessment for Mortgage, Petrol and Inflation Risks and Expenditure) index, which maps patterns of vulnerability to fuel and other price rises for people living in outer suburban areas.