The Challenge 

The speed of urbanisation globally means that between now and the end of the century, we will need to design and build as many urban solutions as we’ve done in all of human history. Today, essential urban  systems such as waste, water, energy, transport, health and food are siloed and stretched due to various pressures including population growth, climate change impacts and ageing infrastructure. Designing new systems solutions in a more integrated way is an opportunity to create resilient cities which deliver better outcomes for citizens and for the environment. Urban systems integration is the conscious attempt to meet multiple goals with a single, unified solution, in an effort to enable better, more sustainable, more efficient lifestyles. 

The market for integration services could potentially be very large, but what does it practically look like? Which systems can be integrated? Where does integration lead to resilience, and where instability? What do citizens want from urban systems? 

Innovate UK, Forum for the Future, Sciencewise and Ipsos Mori sought to answer these questions through the Future Cities Dialogue project. Our objectives were to: 

  • Understand the potential for system integration in UK cities, including the practical implications, benefits, and potential negative knock-on effects
  • Inform the development of integrated urban thinking within Innovate UK’s infrastructure work
  • Identify opportunities for Innovate UK to support urban systems integration through their competitions, and other interventions 
  • Raise awareness about the potential for system integration, and build an engaged network of stakeholders around the topic.

Together, the project partners undertook a futures-based study focused on identifying the possible future pathways for six key urban systems – waste, water, energy, food, health and transport – and using this input to develop scenarios for system integration in UK cities. We developed the content through a combination of primary and secondary research and a series of workshops with expert stakeholders, Innovate UK staff, and a sample of citizens from York, Glasgow and London. 

We used the futures content to identify design principles for effective system integration, and we comprehensively mapped the specific opportunities for urban integration identified by expert stakeholders through our workshops. 

In addition, we hope that the scenarios and related tools will open up a space for new ways of thinking about how to create inclusive and resilient solutions in UK cities. 


We’ve made all the resources developed as part of the Future Cities Dialogues freely available here so anyone can use them


The Future Cities Dialogue full report


Factors shaping the future of urban energywaterwastehealthfood and transport systems.

Future technologies that might have an impact in our future cities.

Macro factors shaping the future of UK cities.

How urban systems work today (energy, water, waste, health, food and transport).

The full detailed scenarios

Our methodology

You can also read the citizen engagement work from Ipsos MORI which informed this report. 


Three future city scenarios - a short video by Innovate UK and posters for use in workshops

Devolution revolution (Greater Harchester) | High tech high choice (Market Newton) | Repair and share (Little Langbrook)



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