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Urbanized areas cover only a fraction of the Earth’s surface but their vast human populations determine the future of our societies. As cities are the centres of culture, creativity and innovation, they bring together diverse human populations and foster the exchange of ideas. Cities play a key role in societal transformations but they are also places of social conflicts, segregation and environmental and health problems.

The future of urban societies rests on how we meet the fundamental challenges cities face today. The tension between ecological imperatives and economic competitiveness constitutes one such dilemma. In current urban development, this challenge needs to be met in a way that produces favourable results from the perspective of the people living in urban environments.

Helsinki Institute of Urban and Regional Studies

The urban theme under HELSUS is closely linked to the Helsinki Institute of Urban and Regional Studies (Kaupunkitutkimusintituutti KATI), which will be officially established in January 2018. The Helsinki Institute of Urban and Regional Studies is a joint division of three UHEL faculties (Faculty of Science, Faculty of Social Sciences and Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences) and an integral part of the Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science.

The Helsinki Institute of Urban and Regional Studies aims to conduct, develop and coordinate urban research and teaching within the University of Helsinki. The Institute closely cooperates with Aalto University and the cities of the Helsinki Capital Region while paying special attention to their joint initiatives Urban Academy and KatuMetro (see below). It is also the task of the institute to maintain contact to other stakeholders on the urban field, such as universities, research institutes, government organisations, corporations and non-governmental organisations, both nationally and internationally. Moreover, the Institute coordinates the teaching of urban studies within the University of Helsinki, which is especially linked to the international Master's Programme in Urban Studies and Planning (see below). 

Through this multidisciplinary expertise both in research and teaching, the Institute adresses current and urgent contemporary urban challenges not only in Finland but on the European and global scale. Furthermore, the Institute aims to develop societal impact in the field of urban and regional studies.