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The challenge

Cities need greater capacity to change

Australia's cities are dynamic and considered among the most liveable in the world, but are facing a growing number of challenges. These include changing population and demographics, rising social inequalities, ageing and inadequate infrastructure, growing resource consumption and waste, declining housing affordability, adapting to the impacts of climate change, responding to technological disruption, and so on.

A radical re-think is required of how we undertake urban development in Australia.

These multiple and interconnected challenges are expected to intensify over the remainder of this century, requiring a radical re-think of how we plan, design and manage cities in Australia. Long-established trends, complacency and risk aversion act to constrain urban innovation, and political and business short-termism can make it difficult for innovators to bring about the change that is required.

As the complexity of urban systems increases, there is a growing role for science to inform and transform the process of urban development and renewal.

Our response

Living laboratories in real urban places

The idea of urban laboratories has come from several years of informed discussions with industry and government agencies about the future of cities.

Urban Living Labs provide a 'safe space' for collaboration and a testbed for innovation, going beyond business-as-usual and demonstrating the potential of alternative ways of thinking. To maximise learning and opportunities for innovation, we are developing a portfolio of Urban Living Labs that span a range of urban development types and environmental contexts across the country.

Operating as 'innovation zones', Urban Living Labs bring together local community knowledge with trusted scientific expertise to undertake action-based projects that produce information, tools, technologies and processes for more resilient cities.

Undertaking research in real-world contexts enables the evaluation of the wider outcomes of the labs in terms of empowering the community, delivering integration, and monitoring the broader benefits and impacts of the urban innovations tested.

The results

Our portfolio of Urban Living Labs

As a trusted partner with a proven track record of working collaboratively to provide innovative, evidence-based and commercial solutions, we invite others to join us on a mission to build more extraordinary precincts and communities within Australian cities and the world.

Each year we partner with 3000+ organisations across 80 countries. We bring these extensive innovation networks and capacity to the following locations:

Sydney Science Park 

Artist impression of Sydney Science Park ©  Celestino

Sydney Science Park is a 280-hectare mixed-use greenfield development in Western Sydney that is set to become one of the largest centres of research and development in the country. Working in partnership with Celestino, the Sydney Science Park is the venue for the first CSIRO Urban Living Lab.

It will host Australian and international innovators as they create ideas and inventions and test them in Sydney Science Park's unique urban development. Some of the ideas being explored include the development and application of different types of smart energy and water systems that can respond to climate and population changes.

Darwin Living Lab

Urban design for a tropical environment is at the heart of the Darwin Living Lab

Under the Darwin City Deal, and in partnership with the three tiers of government, we're coordinating the Darwin Living Lab.

The Darwin Living Lab will test the effectiveness of heat mitigation measures delivered as part of the City Deal and develop evidence-based approaches to inform tropical urban design and future development in Darwin.

Working with our partners and collaborators we aim to deliver a significant, measurable improvement in Darwin's liveability, whilst also improving sustainability and resilience. By so doing, we will create tropical city knowledge and experience that has potential to be translated into products/services for other tropical cities in Australia and overseas.

Ginninderra, Canberra

CSIRO expert ecologist Jacqui Stol (right) working with a community volunteer to regenerate shrub canopy on Ginninderra’s ecological Box Gum Woodland assets.

Ginninderra is a 701-hectare greenfield site on the northern fringe of Australia's capital, Canberra. Through collaboration with industry, government and the community, we're planning to transform our agricultural research field station into a sustainable urban development informed by science and innovation.

As a proposed CSIRO Urban Living Lab, Ginninderra would aim to road test, implement and monitor the performance of urban innovations and technological solutions for the cities of the future. It has the potential to create new jobs, industry, and social and environmental benefits for Australia, and could become a game-changing initiative for showcasing world's best practice.

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