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

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.

Learn More

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.

Learn More

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.

Learn More

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.

Learn More

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.

Learn More

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.

Learn More

February 1, 2018

Could Harvesting Urine Ease Demand for Phosphorus

Phosphorous is essential for life, and it's used in most fertilizers. But it could run out. A group of researchers has recruited citizens of a town in Vermont to test out a solution.

Learn More

November 13, 2017

Smart Solutions for Cities

Benton Harbor residents now are working with researchers at the University of Michigan as part of a new Urban Collaboratory initiative that embraces smart city technologies and urban design to address targeted challenges that impact the livability of communities.

Learn More

October 27, 2017

Sensors in a Shoebox’ empower citizens to gather data about communities

Sensors in a Shoebox is a project to put compact kits of sensors in the hands of Detroit teenagers as a grassroots approach to urban technology that aims to empower the community, rather than the technocrats.

Learn More

October 12, 2017

NSF awards $1.8M to help develop smart stormwater system

Autonomous "smart" technologies for aging stormwater systems are being developed at the University of Michigan to lessen the impacts of flooding — potentially saving lives and billions of dollars in property damage.

Learn More