Building Smarter,
Healthier Cities Together

The Urban Collaboratory partners with communities to solve on-the-ground challenges such as making drinking water safer, improving infrastructure, increasing access to healthy food, and much more. Collaboratory team members work directly with city stakeholders to identify their needs and develop solutions guided by smart city technology and novel urban design methods.

It Starts with Cities

The Urban Collaboratory’s work starts in the city itself, and then connects to campus —not the other way around. Researchers work with local stakeholders to define and scope initiatives based on the pressing challenges facing urban centers. Smart city technologies are designed into scalable and robust urban solutions by Urban Collaboratory teams before being implemented at pilot-scale in cities.

Urban Collaboratory projects integrate information technologies and sensing in a comprehensive fashion to observe, manage, and control urban processes—all with the goal of improving residents’ health and overall quality of life. These initiatives create what are known as “smart and healthy cities.”

Beyond the Lab

“It’s very intentional for us to get faculty members out of their labs and out of their classrooms to work directly in the community. That’s where we can have the most impact. Rather than pushing research agendas on client cities, this model embraces collaboration as a means of better understanding the challenges and needs that the community identifies.”

Jerome Lynch

Chair, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Urban Collaboratory Co-Director

Technology for
the Greater Good

When cities use technology to solve problems, they become “smart cities.”

Research Themes

While each city we serve is very unique, seven themes crop up again and again, no matter the location. Within these seven themes, our research aims to answer questions including: How do we pay for smart cities? How can cities enable social mobility? How can energy become clean and affordable? And much more.

These themes are the focus of our research, and all of our projects are designed to create solutions in at least one of these areas.

Urban Collaboratory
in the News

October 12, 2020

Improving Construction Worker Safety with Wearable Sensors

Professor SangHyun Lee and team are placing inexpensive wearable sensors on construction workers to measure things such as anxiety, fatigue and stress on active construction sites.

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October 12, 2020

Engineers Service to Society

At U-M CEE, we're building on our enduring legacy to tackle some of the most complex challenges facing our society and our planet. More than any other engineering discipline, we are in service to society advancing the common good. Check out our video to see why it's great to be CEE!

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August 5, 2020

Treating PFAS water contamination with cold plasma

University of Michigan researchers are developing better plasma technology that can destroy PFAS compounds.

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August 27, 2019

Here’s what Ann Arbor-area lawmakers are doing about PFAS

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell raised her voice Tuesday night when a constituent suggested she and other lawmakers aren’t approaching the issue of PFAS with enough urgency.

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July 24, 2019

Professor Henry Liu addresses House committee on the need for a national surface transportation research agenda

In the 1910s, Ford’s Model-T cars changed our conception of time and space. In the 1950s, the construction of interstate highway systems enabled travel by car over longer distances. And today we are facing a third wave of the transportation revolution with connected and automated vehicle technology.

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November 13, 2018

U-M officials deliver progress report on collaboration

Researchers from the University of Michigan Urban Collaboratory said Monday that helping Benton Harbor officials develop better transportation options for the city’s residents does more than get people where they want to go.

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October 3, 2018

Joint U-M and GLWA Team wins inaugural intelligent water challenge

At the WEFTEC 2018 conference on October 1, 2018, a joint team from the University of Michigan and the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) won the grand prize in the LIFT Intelligent Water Systems Challenge.

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August 30, 2018

Fixes to Detroit schools’ water won’t come cheap

As Detroit Public Schools Community District faces a building infrastructure crisis that will cost hundreds of millions of dollars to fix, it's also confronting the major investment it could take to quell concerns due to elevated lead and copper levels found in some schools' water.

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March 27, 2018

U-M working to improve transit, ease poverty in Benton Harbor

Engineers at the University of Michigan are looking to tackle Benton Harbor's transportation issues.

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March 16, 2018

Benton Harbor Partners with UM Researchers to Bolster Public Transit

Kenneth Gavin’s memories of Benton Harbor in the 1970s include the good and the bad—particularly, the fond 1978 recollection of joining the church he would one day pastor. They also include something more ominous: the opening of The Orchards Mall in Benton Township just a year later.

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