At the University of Leeds our research aims to help to create socially, environmentally and economically sustainable cities. Our researchers play leading roles in national and international cities research, working on a variety of projects in a number of areas including: 

  • examining the resilience of infrastructure systems
  • low-carbon city systems
  • retaining local value
  • non-exploitative finance and the links between financial governance and inequality
  • justice and inequality in cities
  • ‘big data’ in cities
  • the co-production of research with local stakeholders

At the heart of our impressive research and funding portfolio are large grants and cross-disciplinary centres funded by the EPSRC, ESRC and NERC. With a strong reputation for working with community, industry and government partners, the University of Leeds is at the forefront of helping build more sustainable societies and cities fit for the future and able to face climate change challenges.

Key strengths 

We work across seven faculties in three key areas of research: 
Resilient Infrastructure
Sustainable Cities
Building Sustainable Societies

Facts and figures

  • locally, our work has informed Leeds City Council’s strategy for balancing commercially viable investments in housing with strategic priorities for driving down fuel poverty through modelling district heat networks.
  • over 70 researchers from across the University are already active within the cities network, working on projects ranging from rethinking the value of infrastructure (iBUILD) to using robots to repair city streets and utilities, to understanding how financialization has contributed to the European debt crisis.
  • University of Leeds CITIES researchers now account for research projects of more than £14.6m.
  • at Leeds we have established integrated trans-disciplinary research networks exploring and empowering transformations towards sustainable societies and resilient infrastructure systems within, and beyond, cities.
  • nationally, we have influenced HM Treasury’s guidance on valuing infrastructure spend in the Green Book through research on new approaches to economic evaluation of systems of infrastructure provision.
  • our research focuses on building socially, environmentally and economically sustainable cities which are more equal and more secure for all who live there. Our work is rooted in the insight that cities are complex, interacting ‘systems of systems.’ 

Major projects


iBUILD is funded by a £3.5 million grant from the EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) and the ESRC (Economic and Social Research Council). The programme also benefits from £1.8 million of support from university partners, industry and government departments and agencies.  Leeds researchers, led by Professor Phil Purnell, are looking at the issue of scale in local delivery trying to reconcile local scale priorities with regional and national strategic needs.

Climate Smart Cities
Professor Andrew Gouldson at the University of Leeds is currently leading the Climate Smart Cities programme, a global programme of research to provide the evidence base for cost-effective low-carbon interventions for ten global cities.


FESSUD  is a multidisciplinary, pluralistic project. Led by Professor Malcolm Sawyer the project aims to forge alliances across the social sciences, so as to understand how finance can better serve economic, social and environmental needs

The University of Leeds is leading a pioneering £4.2m national infrastructure research project with the vision of creating self-repairing cities. Leeds researchers including Professor Phil Purnell and Professor Robert Richardson will develop small robots to identify problems with utility pipes, street lights and roads and fix them with minimal environmental impact and disruption to the public.


CVORR  is a NERC (National Environment Research Council) and ESRC (Economic and Social Research Council) funded research project. CVORR will produce a methodology for systems analysis of waste-producing processes that combines micro and macro approaches to measuring flows with methods to assess the value of these flows.

Key people

Professor Gary Dymski
Co-Director of the CITIES theme

Professor Phil Purnell
Co-Director of the CITIES theme


Mrs Faye McAnulla
Research & Innovation Development Manager

Case studies