An Introduction to the URGENT Programme

URGENT - Urban Regeneration and the Environment, is a Thematic Programme of research funded by the Natural Environment Research Council. URGENT aims to stimulate the regeneration of the urban environment through understanding and managing the interaction of natural and man-made processes.

Background and rationale

Over 90% of the population of the UK live in conurbations covering 10% of its land area. It is estimated that, by the year 2000, half of the world's six billion people will live in cities. Many urban centres in the developed world have experienced over 150 years of industrialisation and rapid urbanisation, leaving a legacy of contamination and dereliction. This presents risks to the health of urban inhabitants and ecosystems, inhibits safe and cost-effective redevelopment and diminishes the quality of life. The challenge is to clean up the legacy of the past and institute a sustainable development regime which will avoid repetition of past mistakes and reshape the structure and use of the urban environment.

To help meet this challenge the URGENT Programme of Thematic Research has been established to integrate urban ecological and environmental research across the geological, terrestrial, freshwater and atmospheric sciences and will work in partnership with city authorities, industry and regulatory bodies. The programme is expected to receive NERC funding of 9.7 million over seven years, with additional support anticipated from organisations such as the Environment Agency. 

URGENT is focused on a limited range of urban conurbations in the UK but is expected to develop generic models and solutions which can be applied more widely in the UK and internationally.

Collaboration with other Research

URGENT is collaborating with other NERC programmes, such as "Environmental Diagnostics", and other Research Council-supported initiatives, such as the EPSRC "Towards Sustainable Cities" programme, and the ESRC "Cities Competitiveness and Cohesion" programme. Joint science projects have been initiated and strong working relationships forged with the expected promotion of a cross-Council publication on urban programmes.

Links with the User Community

The programme also emphasises links with the needs of decision-makers and users concerned with reclamation, reshaping and management of the urban environment. These comprise local and national statutory authorities, industry, funders of urban redevelopment and private individuals. Their needs include:

  • diagnoses and characterisation of problems in relation to natural background;
  • techniques for remediation of derelict land;
  • strategies for development and management within the urban environment;
  • prescription of standards, guidelines and targets for meeting the needs of urban areas.

Each project has designated "users" who follow the research closely and have a direct interest in the findings. More information on each individual Projects users can be found in the project summaries

Science Implementation

URGENT Science research projects are now all underway, and more details about the science projects can be found in the Science Projects Overview and in the individual project pages.


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