Tan Sri Dr Jeffrey Cheah AO, Chancellor of Sunway University, and the Right Honourable Alan Milburn, Chancellor of Lancaster University and former UK Secretary of State of Health, launched the Future Cities Research Institute (FCRI) at Sunway University recently.
The FCRI is a joint collaboration, built on existing strengths and research collaborations between Sunway University and Lancaster University. The Institute will complement the work of the Jeffrey Sachs Centre on Sustainability Development, and capitalise on Sunway’s pioneering leadership in developing sustainable urban environments in Malaysia, and Lancaster’s extensive track record and international reputation for research in ‘cities and surrounding hinterlands’.
Professor Graeme Wilkinson, Vice-Chancellor of Sunway University commented that, “We are now taking the Sunway Lancaster partnership into a new phase as we extend the collaboration very firmly into the area of research. The joint Future Cities Research Institute will focus on one of the biggest challenges facing mankind, namely how to make cities more livable and sustainable in the future.
It is predicted that by 2050 more than 80% of the population in Europe and North America and more than 60% of the population in Africa and Asia will live in cities, totaling around 6.7 billion people. It is therefore entirely fitting for us to choose the challenges of urbanisation to be the focus for our first joint research institute.”
The FCRI will develop an innovative and agile portfolio of research, responding to the intractable challenges facing urban environments, and deliver critical step-changes relevant to their context. The high quality of interdisciplinary research will be leveraged to examine new areas of inquiry that may include; design for healthy living; people-based infrastructure; night-time urban environments and urban food security.
There is no better time than this to expand works on sustainable development. Urban areas around the world are expanding at an incredible rate; and the United Nations (UN) has highlighted the future of cities as a critical concern. The multi-disciplinary research conducted by FCRI will meet many of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
“Our efforts at Sunway are driven by our recognition that realising the SDGs is not the sole responsibility of Governments. It requires the commitment of all sectors of society — the private sector, academia, civil society, and, of course, every single individual. We are all in this together”, said Tan Sri Dr Cheah.
Tan Sri Dr Cheah is also the Founding Chairman of the Sunway Group, Malaysia’s leading urban community master planner. The Group has redefined urban lifestyles by developing over 5,000 acres of integrated townships across Malaysia which include Sunway City Kuala Lumpur, Sunway City Ipoh, and Sunway Iskandar. He is also the chair of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network Malaysia (SDSN Malaysia) Chapter which drives the multitude of sustainable development initiatives in the country.
Sunway University has research interests in smart and healthy cities, and the development of sustainable communities. As part of its plan, FCRI researchers will utilise Sunway City Kuala Lumpur as a ‘living lab.’ Sunway City is the Group’s 800-acre township which has been transformed from a mining wasteland and is the first sustainable township certified by the Malaysian Green Building Index.
“The joint Sunway-Lancaster Future Cities Research Institute will address some of the key issues facing the world this century. In the process, I hope it will help forge an even stronger bond between our two great institutions, Sunway and Lancaster. It is a remarkable relationship, almost 15 years old”, said the Right Honourable Alan Milburn.
“We at Lancaster are immensely proud of the partnership. We are delighted at the progress that it has made and we believe that in the new Institute, we will have a powerful vehicle for taking the partnership forward to the next level”, he continued.
The FCRI represents a logical ‘next step’ in shaping the agenda for future city development, and in deepening the relationship between Sunway and Lancaster, through its support for broad research themes of Digital Cities, Sustainable Cities and Livable Cities. One of its core missions is to train and empower PhD students specialising in relevant disciplines.
PhD students in the FCRI will be jointly supervised between Lancaster and Sunway staff. There will be an annual summer school organised by rotation between UK and Malaysia and shared workshops on a wide range of development activities including research skills, publishing, public engagement, entrepreneurship, innovation, problem solving, and project management.
To optimise the impact of the collaborative work for a global benefit, a biennial “Tan Sri Dr Jeffrey Cheah World Symposium on Cities of the Future” will also be held involving leading scientists and academics from relevant disciplines, members of the business community and government agencies.
At the launch, Professor Dame Sue Black, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Engagement of Lancaster University spoke on ‘Tackling the Challenges of Cities of the Future’ while Professor Mohamed Kheireddine Aroua, Associate Dean (Research) and Head, Research Centre for Carbon Dioxide Capture and Utilisation, School of Science and Technology at Sunway University, talked on ‘Membrane Technology for Safe and Sustainable Drinking Water Supply in Smart Cities’.