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

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“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.”


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


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


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.

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Urban Collaboratory
in the News

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.


July 24, 2019


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


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

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March 16, 2018


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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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.


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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.

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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.

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