UCL Mechanical Engineering and HSSMI study to show how urban manufacturing can boost city economies

15 April 2014

Manufacturing in the urban environment could help to strengthen city economies, providing jobs across a wide skills set for a growing population.

Current research from HSSMI and UCL Mechanical Engineering is looking at the potential for urban manufacturing to develop a circular environment where new technologies, sustainability and a focus on people can be brought together to develop strong city infrastructures.

The numbers of people living in urban areas has increased substantially over the last 10-15 years, and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs predicts 86% of the UK population living in cities by 2050.

 Axel Bindel, research manager at HSSMI said:

“Currently most manufacturing jobs tend to be outside major cities so businesses must persuade the talented and highly motivated workforce to leave cities. The increasing cost of living in cities and lack of employment of certain skill levels makes living in some areas unaffordable for some parts of the population as well.

“A strong manufacturing sector embedded in cities close to a growing workforce and major markets can be a major part of the solution to these problems.”


Five areas of research have been identified to focus on, in addition to the cross cutting issues of finance and economics, employment and training, and supply chains.

This multi-disciplinary approach requires collaboration from all sectors to understand how urbanisation and manufacturing can grow synergistically in the future and transform waste into valuable resources.

The five areas of research are:

  • Urban manufacturing technologies – identifying high value and precision technologies and engineering opportunities, such as digital manufacturing, electric powered vehicles, intelligent robotic systems and smart electronic and sensing technologies
  • Environmental sustainability – using technologies and processes to meet environmental and emission requirements
  • City infrastructure – identifying innovations in transport, architecture, communication networks and city planning are required to promote the growth of urban manufacturing
  • People – looking at the type of working environments, flexible contracts and opportunities that will attract the urban dweller
  • Policy – working with local authorities to influence skills development and educational opportunities in manufacturing

Case studies and examples of best practice will be generated across the sectors to share knowledge and experience.

HSSMI and UCL Mechanical Engineering are in the process of building a network of industry, academic and policy experts to undertake strategic research and facilitate and promote the growth of urban manufacturing within the UK.

Dr Manish Tiwari of UCL Mechanical Engineering said:

“As a world leading and urban university, UCL is uniquely positioned to champion research in sustainable urban manufacturing and to promote the benefits of the circular economic principles underpinning low waste, high value manufacturing. The planned endeavour, which aims to foster a multi-institution, industry-academic partnership led by UCL and HSSMI, is a first major step to enable cutting edge innovation in the manufacturing technologies that can facilitate strong economic growth while maintaining a clear emphasis on environment friendliness.”

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