London Skyline

The Science of Cities

To enable future cities to deliver services effectively, efficiently and sustainably, while keeping their citizens safe, healthy, prosperous, and well informed, requires a step-change in knowledge and understanding.

WISC focuses on the means to gather city-scale data, and the apparatus to transform this data into knowledge, capitalising on emerging developments in big data and in interdisciplinary solutions to the world’s urban challenges.

WISC's Mission


WISC is committed to:

  1. developing and delivering the curriculum that will define the professional standards for urban science,
  2. establishing urban science as an academic field of study and a focus of scientific inquiry through the training of future researchers,
  3. providing an educational programme to meet the needs of a diverse multi-disciplinary student population.

Training is offered through Masters degrees and PhDs, which can be taken on a full- or part-time basis, and through professional development courses in specialist areas.

Many of WISC’s 50+ PhD students will work with industry partners on developing long-term, robust solutions with real business value. Several companies have backed the formation of WISC, including IBM, URS, AT&T, E.ON, British Gas and Cisco, and several are co-supervising and sponsoring one or more PhD students. Industry-focussed research projects vary in duration, from several weeks to several years.

Industry Partnership

The UK Department for Business Innovation and Skills estimate that the global market for integrated citywide solutions is £200bn a year. Opportunities for knowledge transfer between countries and continents are also significant; there are well over 1,000 cities in the world with populations in excess of 500,000. The UK, through partnerships with other world cities and research organisations, has the opportunity to lead in this space. Training experts to address these problems requires major and coordinated commitment from a large, international group of experts: domain experts from cities who can present the challenges; analytical experts to give the tools to understand them; computational experts to help scale the solutions to large-scale datasets; policy experts to address the impact of change; industry experts to implement solutions.


In focusing on the means to gather city-scale data, and the apparatus to transform this data into knowledge, WISC’s research programme capitalises on emerging developments in big data and in interdisciplinary solutions to the world’s urban challenges.

Areas of expertise include Data Science and Analytics, Sensor and Wireless Networks, Social and Media Networks, Science and Technology for Health, Video and Image Processing, Intelligent Infrastructure, Data Management and Privacy and Energy Solutions.

Knowledge Exchange

WISC runs several outreach events throughout the year, from research workshops, Partner Network events, to Citizen Science events to engage the general public. Sign up to WISC’s Knowledge Exchange for regular newsletters, updates on research, details of public seminars, and for an opportunity to attend the annual cities showcase. 

New York of a new Center for Urban Science and Progress – CUSP

Global Partnership

On 23 April 2012, New York’s Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced a historic agreement between New York City, New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and a consortium of world-class academic institutions and private technology companies, which led to the creation in New York of a new Center for Urban Science and Progress – CUSP.

The New York Center for Urban Science and Progress has been formed by a consortium of world-class institutions from around the globe, led by NYU and NYU-Poly and including the University of Warwick, Carnegie Mellon University, the City University of New York, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay and University of Toronto. Industry partners include IBM, Cisco, Siemens, Con Edison, National Grid, Xerox, Arup, IDEO and AECOM.

CUSP is an applied science research institute dedicated to researching and creating new solutions for the pressing and complex challenges confronting the world’s growing cities. Under the Directorship of Steve Koonin, former US Undersecretary of Energy for Science, Chief Scientist of BP and Provost of the California Institute of Technology, CUSP will eventually play host to 50 principal scientists (30 from the academic partners and 20 research staff from the industrial partners), over 400 Masters students, 100 PhD students and 30 post-docs. CUSP is a significant component of New York’s Applied Sciences NYC Initiative. This research institute will spark new technologies, discoveries and innovations, will create new businesses and jobs, and will educate the workforce for the high-tech urban science sector. New research and technologies developed at CUSP are expected to generate $5.5 billion in economic activity and create a total of 7,700 jobs over the next 30 years.

CUSP’s 460,000 square foot New York campus is nearly complete. It is based at 370 Jay Street in Downtown Brooklyn, a vibrant, creative and entrepreneurial neighbourhood.