A roadmap for the next phase of urban transformation
Cities are in the throes of unprecedented change. Still reeling from the pandemic, and now facing economic, social, and climate disruptions, cities must quickly come to grips with the rising expectations of citizens. These run the gamut: wider digital access to public services, medicine, and education; more sustainable and safer infrastructure, mobility, and living conditions; and greater inclusiveness, public health, and affordable housing.
Baby steps won’t be enough. To overcome today’s urban challenges, cities must become future-ready. They need to morph into sustainable, inclusive, resilient, and safe metropolises—with newly fit-for-purpose digital and physical infrastructure.
This is no easy task. Today’s cities face severe skills shortages and budget constraints that make it difficult to keep up with the pace of change. They must contend with onerous political processes, changes in administrations, and regulatory and procurement complexity. Added to that is the need to put out daily fires.
To provide urban leaders with a roadmap for futureproofing their cities, ThoughtLab teamed up with Hatch Urban Solutions and a coalition of business, government, and academic leaders to conduct this ground-breaking research, titled Building a Future-Ready City. To analyze the latest views and strategies, we benchmarked 200 worldwide cities—representing 5% of the global population. In addition, we surveyed 2,000 citizens across 20 cities, interviewed city decision makers across regions, and held discussion groups with urban leaders and experts.
"A future-ready city in a post-pandemic world is one that embraces stakeholder and community engagement, innovation, and technology to cultivate a thriving and enduring community. These cities will be advanced in using smart technology and data to accelerate progress on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, improve our collective resilience, and transition to a zero-carbon economy. ThoughtLab’s research will help shed light on the path ahead for cities."
- Chris Castro, Director of the Office of Sustainability and Resilience for the City of Orlando
Still reeling from the pandemic, and now facing economic, social, environmental, and digital disruptions, cities must quickly come to grips with the rising expectations of citizens. In a post-pandemic world, it is no longer enough to be a smart city.
As cities around the world continue to reel from the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and other disruptions, their highest priority has become to ensure a safe, resilient, and economically stable future for their residents. This has heightened the urgency for cities to become future-ready —smart, sustainable, secure, and fully aligned with changing citizen and business needs.
Global Study Will Provide Urban Leaders With an Evidence-Based Roadmap for Making Their Cities More Sustainable, Resilient, Inclusive, and Future-Ready
ThoughtLab, a leading global research firm, has joined forces with a broad coalition of business, government, and academic leaders to launch its fourth urban research program, Building a Future-Ready City.
By Louis Celi, CEO, ThoughtLab Russia’s invasion of Ukraine highlights a depressing fact about cities and war: cities often take the brunt of attacks and bear the greatest financial and human cost. Two-thirds of Ukraine’s population of 44 million people lived in cities before the conflict began. Millions of them have fled their homes, and hundreds have been killed. The cost to Ukrainian civilian property and infrastructure already surpasses $100 billion.
ThoughtLab’s research partner, SmartCitiesWorld, has released its Climate Action Report 2022, looking at how cities around the world are building environmental sustainability for their citizens. The report was partly based on our survey of 200 cities globally.
Social, economic, and environmental disruptions, heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic, are radically altering the expectations and behaviors of citizens, requiring urban leaders around the world to develop action plans to become future-ready.
As cities face a more challenging future, city leaders need to know the best practices that will allow them to face new threats, tap funding, increase the level of trust among their citizens, and make the best investment decisions. ThoughtLab asked sponsors and advisors of our program to share their views.
The research firm is working with a coalition of business, government, and academic leaders, including SmartCitiesWorld, on the study of 200 cities, which will probe their strategies, investments and plans for becoming future-ready.
City profiles: Spotlight on urban strategies for the future
Barcelona did not commit to be fully carbon neutral by 2030, but it pledged to accelerate its efforts as much as possible. Barbara Pons, Barcelona’s commissioner for the 2030 Agenda, says the COVID-19 pandemic and other trends has increased the need to speed up.
Almaty is an ancient city dating to the Bronze Age. Since then, it has undergone many economic, cultural, and political shifts, and is now gearing up for what might be its most significant transformation—becoming a preeminent digital hub in Central Asia. For Almaty City, becoming future-ready hinges on one thing: its people.
Like many others in emerging markets, Bucaramanga is an unplanned city that has evolved organically and rapidly without the benefit of central coordination. The city has expanded on unstable mountainous ground, often threatened by natural disasters like landslides and floods. How does such a city prepare for the future? By harnessing data and technology.
Cities around the world are increasingly focused on adding green spaces to promote environmental sustainability and improve their citizens’ quality of life. But some cities like Chengdu, China are pushing their ambitions to a higher level by blending technology, economic development, and sustainability.
Innovation is challenging for a city when the national government controls many of its urban domains. Dublin, Ireland’s capital, sets an example of how a municipality can make good progress toward becoming a future-ready city geared to meeting citizen needs, even without total authority, by working with higher levels of government and optimizing the power it does have.
Austin has long been known as a cultural center built around the University of Texas. Over the past 10 years, its digital talent pool, social and entertainment scene, and lower cost of living helped make it one of the fastest-growing cities in the US.
In today’s unpredictable world, resilience is essential for urban future readiness. No city today understands this better than Kyiv, now fighting for survival in the battle with Russia. Kyiv’s experience outlines how future-ready digital technologies can help cities stay resilient even during the worst disasters.
Cary, North Carolina sits just outside the research triangle of Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill. With three major universities and a wealth of tech firms operating nearby, Cary is taking advantage of partnerships to support its efforts to become a smart, data-driven city and to achieve the goals laid out in its 2040 Community Plan.
In June 2021, the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) adopted a new strategic plan designed to revamp the city’s streetscape to address longstanding issues of equity. It offers an example of a future-ready approach to infrastructure and mobility—one that is smart, safe, and inclusive.
New York City has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 and by over 80% by 2050, as part of its Green New Deal plan for a more sustainable future. The New York City Housing Authority—the largest provider of public housing in North America—is fulfilling this pledge by retrofitting its huge portfolio of housing units, which is no easy task. Its approach can serve as a blueprint for other cities.
"Third-party independent research like this project conducted by ThoughtLab are important information sources local government stakeholders can look to for guidance, for best practices, for encouragement, and for inspiration."
- Kevin Taylor, Segment Development Manager, Smart Cities - Americas, Axis Communications
Sponsors and partners
Media & Association Partners
Chief Digital Officer Almaty City, Kazakhstan
Miquel Rodriguez Planas
Commissioner Barcelona City Council
Dr. Peter Pirnejad
City Manager, Los Altos Hills, CA
City Manager, Pearland, TX
Chief Innovation Officer, SEPTA
Former Managing Director, Technology & Innovation Partnerships
New York Housing Authority (Personal Capacity)
Head of Smart City Trondheim, Norway
City Manager, Torrance, CA
Deputy Director, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Singapore
Smart City Program Manager, Dublin
Smart City Pilots & Partnerships
Smart Cities Data & Planning Consultant, London
In Dong Cho
Former Metropolitan Government 1st Vice Mayor, Seoul, South Korea
CIO, Bucaramanga, Colombia
Commissioner, Chicago Department of Transporation
CIO, Cary City, NC
Former Director Innovation and Technology Sioux Falls, SD
Deputy Mayor Auckland
Executive VP, Planning and Development, Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Austin, TX
Chief Communications Officer Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
Smart Mobility, Parking Enterprise & Mobility Services, Clark County, NV
Jason JonMichael Assistant Director Smart Mobility, City of Austin
Metro21: Smart Cities Institute,
Carnegie Mellon University
Joan E. Ricart
Professor IESE Business School
Professor, The Penn Institute for Urban Research
Professor of Economics Sogang University
Professor, University of Southern California, Sol Price School of Public Policy
Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Michigan; M-City
Professor of Urban Planning & Design, Tsinghua University Tianjin, China
Dr. Yu Qi
Associate Professor Nankai University; Tianjin, China
Deputy CIO for Partnerships, Cloud Innovation Center, Arizona State University
General Manager, Cloud Innovation Center, Arizona State University
Co-Director, Center for Smart Cities and Regions, School for the Future of Innovation in Society, Arizona State University
VP of the Institute of Urban Design and Innovation at CAFA, China
Prof. Maosheng Lai
Peking University of China
Dr. Sanjay Modak Assistant Professor Graduate Programs and Research Department
RIT of Dubai
Managing Director Smart Cities Council
Chief Executive Officer Smart Cities World
Secretary General, United Cities
General Manager, Public Sector Edelman
Head of Global Development Program, Anbound
Chief Executive Officer FIWARE
Co-founder and Chief Technical Officer, Reimagining Cities LLC
Founding Principal Renaissance Urbaine
Sameh Naguib Whaba
Global Director, Urban, Disaster Risk Management, Resilience and Land Global Practice, World Bank
Director of Community Engagement Open Sustainability Collaborative
Head of Urban Transformation World Economic Forum
Vice President, Strategic Industry Programs, CTIA
Deputy Secretary General GO SMART
Pablo Marmissolle Daugerre
Chief of Staff, United Cities and Local Governments
Executive Director Dallas Innovation Alliance
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Relevant Thought Leadership Work
Building a Future Ready City is the fourth program in a series of ground-breaking multi-client studies ThoughtLab has produced on smart cities trends.
ThoughtLab, in collaboration with a global coalition of business, government, and academic leaders has aimed at providing city decision-makers with an evidence-based roadmap to building the smart city of the future.
ThoughtLab gathered benchmarking data from 100 cities, conducted in-depth interviews with city leaders, and drew on valuable input from a cross industry coalition of leading firms and research organizations. This study provides an in-depth evidence-based roadmap that cities can use to become vibrant, hyperconnected urban centers of the future.
This report showcases how 10 cities across regions, population sizes, and economic maturity are achieving the SDGs. It spotlights challenges and provides valuable insights for their peers.
ThoughtLab teamed up with a coalition of organizations with urban and technology expertise to conduct ground-breaking research into the impact of smart city solutions on urban performance. Our research identified 10 smart city pillars that work together to drive benefits to local stakeholders.
For more information on how you can join our coalition as an advisory board member or a sponsor for Building a Future-Ready City, contact us today.