Creating more productive cities; Creating more productive cities;

Productive cities

Planning cities for prosperity and cohesion

Planning cities for prosperity and cohesion

Productive cities achieve higher living standards and reduce inequality in a rapidly urbanising world. When cities prioritise shared prosperity and economic opportunity, the result is greater productivity and deeper social cohesion.

Achieving this boost in productivity is a complex and multi-dimensional challenge, involving access to work, development of new local economic centres, futureproofing against climate change and attracting investment in a highly competitive global environment.

Cities can be inclusive engines of economic growth, but only if they offer opportunity to all. At Arup our planners, economists and urban strategists help cities to become more equitable, productive and sustainable. ” Tom Bridges Tom Bridges Director, Cities, Planning and Design

Analyse, synthesise, advise

At Arup, we see the urban planning and design process as a chance to map out the impacts of accelerating trends, question scenarios and create a shared vision, based on data and evidence, for a more prosperous, sustainable future. Our ethos is to create space for urban leaders, clients and collaborators to lean into big societal challenges. We help urban planners and economic specialists engage with trends at a strategic, analytical and technical level, unpicking complex datasets to synthesise insights that are actionable for urban leaders.

It’s easy to get stuck in our own personal views of productivity, but through the planning and design process, we focus on understanding data and addressing the inequality and disparity that often holds back regional and organisational productivity. For example, connecting disadvantaged communities to education and employment opportunities through affordable public transport links.

We bring together politicians, funders, CEOs and community leaders to agree collective long-term action. We support cities to repurpose districts, cluster innovators, attract green finance, develop skills for delivery, and protect what makes a place unique whilst enabling them to adapt and reinvent themselves for the future.

Staying ahead of trends

Cities reflect the changing ways we live and work. In many countries the post-pandemic staying power of working from home and the retail transition from ‘bricks to clicks’ are challenging the purpose of urban centres. Many towns and cities will need to consider retrofits to reduce carbon emissions, while any new urban centres need to be masterplanned with net zero operation defined from the start. For some city regions, developing clusters of expertise in everything from renewable energy to space exploration, semi-conductors to science will propel their productivity and attract talent, providing future-proofed jobs for residents.

How we help you

We bring together urban planners, economists, researchers and designers to analyse urban trends and citizen data, combining this with the aspirations of city leaders. Together we create detailed roadmaps to enable cities to plan and deliver new centres of economic and social productivity:

Inclusive economic growth

Growth strategies to maximise your city’s prosperity

Sustainable economic growth doesn’t leave communities behind - so we plan schemes that respond to local social realities. We analyse economic outputs such as jobs, training, home working, travel behaviour or shifting retail habits to explore possible futures. By synthesising this data, we can model complex scenarios, recommend policy interventions and develop a strategic plan for urban economies to support sustainable, equitable recoveries and long-term growth.

Our approach helps to understand how urban interventions can maximise return on investment, demonstrate value to society, and improve overall city resilience.

Learn more about our economic planning service

Masterplanning new economic centres

Regeneration can drive productivity at scale, boosting competitiveness and employment with new jobs, new homes and transport. We work on new urban districts in growing cities, and often repurpose former industrial sites to create new economic centres within more mature cities. We deliver major development plans and capital programmes, providing expertise on land use planning, organisational design, funding and delivery models, to leave a legacy of improved quality of life.

Learn more about our masterplanning services

Infrastructure as a catalyst for growth

Infrastructure, particularly train stations, can be a major catalyst for productivity, enabling populations’ affordable, sustainable access to work. Well planned transport infrastructure can become a hub for collaborative work, driving up wellbeing and productivity. We help clients to define the business case to develop complex sites into commercially viable schemes that gain planning approval, meet local needs and connect communities and businesses.

Knowledge campuses and innovation districts

Driving productivity through knowledge campuses and innovation districts

Place-based strategies, where knowledge, science and industry are deliberately combined, can accelerate innovation, creating ‘knowledge spill overs’ of interdisciplinary collaboration. As distinct entities, they attract, create and scale up fast-growing firms looking for outstanding locations. Whilst attracting anchor institutions is often key, it’s also a chance to create tailored space for small businesses and more diverse entrepreneurs, improving economic access for women and underrepresented communities.

Capitalising on green growth

Productivity should not come at any cost. We help clients to explore how to balance prosperity alongside the environmental sustainability we urgently need, to realise a city’s local green economic potential.

Learn more about the global green economy opportunity

Urban food systems

Food security is a growing issue for many cities and is leading to the development of new urban food industries. Some cities are starting to bring together agricultural technology, water and energy specialists to solve problems across the food ecosystem, reduce waste, change food culture and increase resilience. Our experts design urban food interventions, planning guidelines and policy advice that connect start-ups, rethink logistics and enable circular manufacturing, as well as improving social connections and community spirit.

Learn more about our sustainable food system expertise

Digital planning and modelling

Digital is transforming our understanding of city development. Using agent-based modelling, we can better understand what people want and need from a city’s districts and transport networks. We can engage a wider, more diverse audience using virtual planning consultations. And we review the performance of urban assets, informing decarbonisation, as well as analysing safety, capacity and asset condition, informing future investments.

Learn more about city modelling lab


Meet our people