Around half of the world’s population live in cities. Society has evolved and progressed over time—with cities acting as the hub of these changes.

In a nutshell, cities can be defined as drivers of innovation, helping to form the fundamentals of society. Modern cities, however, face an increasing number of challenges, and solutions must be found to ensure that cities can continue to act as the pioneers of the future.

To find metropolitan solutions to the problems encountered by cities and societies today, the collaboration between different sectors, while taking into account citizens’ opinions and views, is crucial. The synergy between cities and academic institutions is vital when it comes to redefining them.

Synergy leads to innovation

Examples of this synergy in action can be seen in cities today. In Amsterdam, the AMS Institute worked with the municipality to create a map indicating the temperatures in different areas around the city. This map allows Amsterdam’s inhabitants to seek out cool spots in the increasingly hot summers which Europe will continue to experience over the coming years due to climate change.

The AMS Institute has also worked with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on a project called the “Roboat.” This is an autonomous boat which has been designed to travel around the city’s canals. The city has considered different ways to utilize this robot, including carrying passengers or even waste, by connecting it to a computer system.


Milton Keynes in the UK was a planned city, built from scratch in the mid-20th century. As with all other cities, it has grown and changed over the years and is now faced with problems similar to those seen in major urban areas. The city is working alongside academic institutions and technology companies to understand its issues with mobility and the need for improved access to public spaces. In turn, this will create new policies and services.

Synergy can lead to innovation, but if this innovation does not evolve with a changing world, cities will continue to face new problems. Cities must be continuously rethought, redesigned and reimagined to lead us toward more prosperous societies.

How do we define a “prosperous” society?

A city that is socially inclusive, multifunctional, and designed to push human boundaries could be defined as societally prosperous. In short, prosperity is the ability of a society to continually advance its potential.

So what would a prosperous city look like?

A prosperous city is fair, with equal opportunity for everyone. Prosperous cities will also place a focus on their residents’ health, especially with the current worsening air quality and climate crises. Health, education and mobility make up the pillars of what makes a city prosperous: all basic human needs must be met.

On top of this, affordable and accessible housing and transportation must be available, as well as jobs and education. Diverse and inclusive communities will round out these needs to create a truly prosperous city.

The role of academia

Knowledge and learning are the greatest renewable resources available to humanity. When it comes to tackling newer issues, such as climate change, there is no history to fall back on, so instead, we should look to universities. As centers of research and innovation, they are the most useful tool we have access to.

In academic institutions, the big questions can be debated, the key issues understood, and solutions found. Universities offer access to cutting-edge knowledge and new concepts that can enact real change in the way the world currently functions.

The future of cities and institutions

There’s a large gap between the decisions made by multilateral institutions, like the United Nations, and how they are translated into local reality. As expected, different cities and countries require different solutions. The effects of climate change on cities are widespread, but also differ from place to place, requiring constant innovation and new resolutions.

Academic institutions, municipalities and larger institutions must all work together with cities in order to create innovative solutions to keep up with the problems of today. This will ensure our cities continue to act as hubs of societal change and transformation—a key factor in the evolution of society, both historically and in the present day.

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