Spatial systems, transformations and linkages

This theme explores issues of resilience and vulnerability in urban and rural locations via the lens of land use change, landscape impacts, spatial planning, resource flows, and socio-technical transitions.


In all this the overarching theme is about interconnectionsWe see the reality of cities and spatial development structures, not as boxes labelled economics or environment, but rather as whole inter-connected systems which interact and evolve. To respond to this we need new kinds of whole-system thinking.

Image of a city at night

The ‘interconnections of things’ – urban systems, resource flows, climate change, land use and landscape – have been a major component of CURE’s work since the founding of our predecessor, the Centre for Urban and Regional Ecology, in 2000. This is now evolving towards a research perspective on the interconnections of thinking. This raises more cross-cutting approaches, via complexity and emergence, transition and innovation studies, futures and foresight methods, and then applied to resilience/vulnerability studies, social learning and collaboration, values and valuation issues, and so on.  

Each of these comprises a range of projects at the regional, UK, EU and other levels, working across sectors such as housing, transport, land-use, energy and environmental management, economic development, organisational studies and so on. This involves relationships with organisations in Manchester such as the Institute for Innovation Research, and Tyndall Centre for Climate Change, and many Universities including Salford, Maastricht, Naples, Vienna, Versailles, and British Columbia, as well as inter-governmental organisations such as UK Foresight, European Commission, and UN Habitat.

Through all this we aim at basic and theoretical insights, focused on the development of synergistics. This is the theory and practice of highly complex, co-evolutionary, interconnected systems of social collaboration, learning and intelligence: which combine economic, environmental, social, cultural, political and spatial systems.  This is seen as an essential step in responding to the Grand Societal Challenges, both global and local. 

We also aim to produce very practical and applied research – in collaboration with policy-makers, business and civil society – for topical questions such as:

  • How to avoid urban sprawl and build sustainable settlements?
  • How to design environmental policy in places where pollution = jobs?
  • How to promote sustainable neighbourhoods, in fragmented, chaotic cities?