The United Kingdom’s strategy of Official Development Assistance (ODA) acknowledges that the grand global challenges require new knowledge systems built on transformative and interdisciplinary work. Shifting focus from prioritising country issues, the UK’s ODA is funding universities and research organisations to do disciplinary and interdisciplinary challenge-led research. The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) is a GBP 1.5 billion fund announced by the UK Government in late 2015. It has been specially designed to stimulate research on the challenges faced by developing countries and has funded eight international consortia to identify key challenges of the future.
IIHS is part of one of eight consortia of global elite institutions that will advance an international understanding of the future city. The project, titled PEAK (Prediction, Emergence, Adoption and Knowledge) Urban, is a four-year collaborative project between the University of Oxford, IIHS, African Centre for Cities, Peking University, and EAFIT University. It seeks to build capacity for decision making on urban futures by generating new research, fostering young leaders who draw on different disciplinary perspectives to address the challenges of a 21st century city, and build capacity of cities to understand and plan their own futures. Bengaluru, Beijing, Cape Town and Medellin serve as sites where this research is situated.
The PEAK framework synthesises traditional urban studies disciplines with emergent new urban sciences in a programme of research and capacity building across the humanities, social, sciences and natural sciences. PEAK is grounded in the logic of urban complexity to develop an array of disciplinary perspectives that will address the challenges of the 21st century city. The breadth of PEAK will build the capacities of cities to handle alternative emergent development futures. PEAK will directly build knowledge from and about practice cases from cities of India, South Africa, China and Colombia which are vital to understand how to scale and develop interventions for the future city. IIHS works on six research streams as part of the PEAK project, focussing on areas of urban health, spatial inequalities, infrastructure and governance, deindustrialisation, energy transitions and metropolitan and land-based financing. This will inform teaching, ongoing research and practice at IIHS.