Read more about on-going urban research projects within the University of Helsinki.
Research projects and groups
Developing Co-creation Models for Urban Research Collaboration
This two-year research project focuses on developing multidisciplinary proficiency in urban studies and discovering new ways to improve knowledge transfer between universities and cities. It aims to discover new methods for co-operation between urban actors and scientists especially focusing on knowledge co-creation. Research is conducted by analysing the current state of collaboration within urban studies, benchmarking internationally well known urban research institutes and organizing and developing models for new types of workshop to enhance collaboration and knowledge exchange between universities and urban actors.
This project aims to produce research outputs and new knowledge of the topic but also to create concrete suggestions and models for enhancing collaboration between cities universities and other urban actors to support knowledge-based decisionmaking in cities.
Contrasting and Re-Imagining Margins of Kinship – is a consortium of researchers involved in the creation of new ideas about relationships, kinship, family, sexualities etc. in a number of contexts. The project provides a substantive contribution to the theories of kinship and sexuality. CoreKin reimagines answers to the question “What kinship is all about”. This is done by combining qualitative and quantitative data and contrasting the intimate economics of kinship through fieldwork in diverse social realities. The project aims not only to clarify how invisible, illegitimate and otherwise marginalized care relations are affected by state policies and economic currencies but also how they resist and redescribe norms and state powers.
The Digital Geography Lab explores the use of novel big (and open) data sources and cutting-edge methods in supporting sustainable spatial planning and decision-making. Our main focus is on two intertwined areas of research: human mobility/accessibility and biodiversity conservation. We take advantage of new data sources, such as social media content, mobile phone call detail records, and public transport timetables, combined with remotely-sensed and register data, which we use for carrying out advanced spatial analyses of accessibility and mobility patterns, conservation opportunities and threats, and tracking illegal wildlife trade trafficking. Our research is conducted at various spatial scales in Finland, Estonia, South Africa and Uruguay, extending across continental and global scales. The Digital Geography Lab is also a forerunner in open science and actively shares its research tools and data with different stakeholders both within and outside academia.
EIT 2018 experimental project Urban Oasis aims to open up a discussion about the reuse of empty urban spaces and the potential they might have as common year-around indoor gardens and living rooms of citizens. In May 2018, a demo environment was created in Teurastamo, Helsinki, a popular urban hub for culture and food. The project hopes to co-create new ways of working around the theme and to contemplate the meaning of urban experiments in city development in general. The project is funded by the European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT) Climate-KIC Nordic.
Cities are in a key role in the research of societal security. Fragile cities in the global South: Societal security, environmental vulnerability and representative justice project analyses the ways that fragile cities are dealing with societal security, environmental vulnerability and representative justice. The research develops a revised theory of urban political ecology that helps us to understand the interlinkages between security and vulnerability. Through several case studies, we identify the opportunities and constraints involved in new forms to manage urban insecurities. The methods include documentary analysis and interviews with policymakers, activists and residents. FCITIES will increase theoretical, methodological and societal understanding of the multi-scalar complexities of security, vulnerability and justice in fragile cities.
Food Economics and Business Management for Sustainable Food Systems research group perceive food-research as a transdisciplinary challenge toward a sustainable future, in social, economic, and environmental terms. The group aims to contribute toward a better understanding of managerial, organizational and behavioral issues in food systems for sustainable change. They research food systems in urban settings: urban agriculture, alternative food systems and urban communities.
The intended long-term impact of the Integrative Mechanisms for Addressing Spatial Justice and Territorial Inequalities in Europe (IMAJINE) project is to contribute to the reduction of territorial inequalities in the European Union and to promote social and spatial justice, through the development of new integrative policy mechanisms. University of Helsinki is responsible for the Work Package 1 of the project which makes a review the key literatures on the concepts of spatial justice, territorial inequality and social cohesion and analyses their use in the policy circles at regional, national and EU levels. From the KATI researchers involved in the IMAJINE projects are Mikko Weckroth and Sami Moisio.
Know Your Neighbour is a multidisciplinary project, which is based on cooperation between University of Helsinki, Otava Folk High School and Butterworks Oy media house. We utilize the Imitation Game in the fields of research, education and media to build empathy and understanding into the world of constantly changing neighbourhood relationships.
Nordic City Challenge is a 3-day intensive course on sustainable, multidisciplinary and practical urban planning. It is organized annually in different Nordic countries. The course gathers 20-25 students from the Nordic countries to share ideas and work together on a real-life planning case.
The Nordic City Challenge has four main purposes:
- Engaging students in real-life urban challenge solving processes.
- Establishing multidisciplinary and cross-sectorial networks of young experts, academics, and practitioners from different backgrounds.
- Offering students in-depth knowledge and practical experience through actual planning work.
- Producing new perspectives and innovations for Nordic societal development and to deepen Nordic cooperation.
The similarities between Nordic societies and structures have enabled interesting comparisons and solutions. The comparison of Nordic cases has widened and strengthened both experts’ and students’ understanding of current trends in urban development. In doing so, it has contributed to the creation of social-ecological models for densifying urban areas in Nordic cities. The students’ proposals have also been applied to practical urban planning projects.
We are witnessing an exponential growth of urban areas and the emergence of mega-cities. The Sensing and Analytics of Air Quality (MegaSense) project investigates massive-scale pollution and environmental sensing enhanced by advanced data analytics and AI techniques. The mission of MegaSense is to use machine learning techniques for the calibration of a high number of low-quality and low-cost sensors with a small number of highly accurate measurement stations. The project addresses the global challenge pertaining to pollution modelling and prediction, while considering the limitations of the state-of-the-art low density of measurement stations and lack of high-resolution spatial-temporal data.
Lähiympäristö 2.0 research project compiles the current knowledge on how to plan safe urban environments. The focus is on studying existing cases and planning principles, which will be further developed by reflecting on new planning processes. The project will produce recommendations on how to apply these principles to different stages of the planning process. Special attention is paid for collaboration processes. Lähiympäristö 2.0 is funded by analysis, assessment and research activities, coordinated by Prime Minister’s Office (VN TEAS). Lähiympäristö 2.0 research team includes researchers from VTT, University of Helsinki, Aalto University and SPEK. Lähiympäristö 2.0 researchers at the University of Helsinki are Suvi Välimäki and Rami Ratvio.
The Urban Ecology Research Group (Dept. of Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki) focuses on research and teaching in the urban setting. Urban areas provide excellent opportunities for ecological and multidisciplinary research that combine social and natural sciences. The group enhances sustainable urban development by disseminating their research findings to planners, managers and decision makers. The Urban Ecology Research Group run several research projects and is actively involved in the Urban Academy platform.
Over half of the world's population lives in urban areas and the fraction is expected to further increase in the future. Thus, increasing number of people are exposed to local urban meteorology and climate at the same time when emitting increasing amount of air pollutants and greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Urban Meteorology group studies the coupling between the urban ecosystem and the atmosphere using state-of-the-art observations and modelling. The group is also part of the Institute for Atmospheric and Earth System Research (INAR).
The main goal of the Urban Multilingualism in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area project was to examine the individual multilingualism of Helsinki Metropolitan Area speakers and how it appears in their everyday life. The students interviewed people of their choosing with the questionnaire and the collected data was analyzed by the project researchers. In total 157 consultants were included in the research. They spoke 72 different mother tongues and 76 different languages in total. This is approximately 44% of the languages found in previous statistics. As a result, six languages previously unmentioned in statistics were found. More detailed information on the project and its results can be found on their website.
How do religion and religious communities influence the life and well-being of cities and people living in them? Urban theology is a University of Helsinki based research and teaching project that aims to incorporate urbanisation-related themes into the Faculty of Theology’s research and develop academic theological education based on it. The project combines theory and practice and aims in providing new generations of theologians with solid and practical skills to operate in changing urban contexts. For this, community-based university pedagogics are applied and developed; teaching and studying take place not only in classrooms and libraries but also on city streets, churches, mosques, malls, and soup kitchens. The Urban theology project is funded by the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Finland. The project, however, represents academic research and teaching, unaffiliated with any particular religion or belief.