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Urban Collaboratory

Building Smarter and Healthier Cities

The University of Michigan Urban Collaboratory draws together faculty experts from across campus in smart city technologies and urban design to collaborate directly with city stakeholders to address targeted challenges that impact the livability of communities.

As part of the Urban Collaboratory, launched in 2017, interdisciplinary faculty teams work closely with city stakeholders to identify specific challenges, develop an effective approach and then implement smart city solutions guided by novel urban design methods.

“We’re not researchers looking to apply solutions, and through that process, trying to find problems—we’re the complete opposite,” said Professor Jerome Lynch, co-director of the Urban Collaboratory. “We’re working with stakeholders to identify problems, and then we come forward with new solutions that are structured around our ability and intellectual capacity. It’s very intentional for us to get faculty members out of their labs and out of their classrooms to work directly in the community. That’s where we can have the most impact.”


U-M researchers are working on Urban Collaboratory projects in Benton Harbor, Detroit and Grand Rapids. They also are working to identify specific projects in Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor.

“Through the efforts of the Urban Collaboratory, researchers in fields ranging from social sciences to engineering, urban planning and design are working with city stakeholders to prioritize access to fundamental human needs,” said Professor Geoffrey Thün, co-director of the initiative. “That’s what is most important here.”

In regard to Benton Harbor, the university funded seven research projects that address two of the city's primary concerns—mobility and water. Funded research projects are below:

  • Transit and Employment Accessibility Modeling for Benton Harbor, Michigan
    • Principal Investigator: Tierra Bills
  • Integrating Health and Asset Management Techniques to Improve Water Service Delivery in Benton Harbor
    • ​Principal Investigators: Glen T. Daigger, Nancy G. Love, Seth Guikema and Joseph N. Eisenberg
  • Modulation of Flashiness and Sediment Loading in Ox Creek (Benton Harbor) Through Real-Time Control of Agricultural Runoff
    • Principal Investigators: Branko Kerkez and Avery H. Demond
  • Deployment of an Urban Sensor Network to Monitor Benton Harbor Street Activity
    • Principal Investigator: Jerome P. Lynch
  • Prototype Design for New Mobility Hubs Benton Harbor
    • Principal Investigators: ​​Geoffrey Thün and Kathy Velikov
  • Tracking, Simulating, and Optimizing Mobility Services in Benton Harbor
    • Principal Investigator: Pascal Van Hentenryck
  • Initiating Engagement with Benton Harbor Residents Through Focus Groups
    • Principal Investigators: Elisabeth R. Gerber and Jeffrey D. Morenoff


Jerome Lynch

Donald Malloure Department Chair of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering
​Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Geoffrey Thün

Associate Professor of Architecture
Associate Dean for Research, A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning

Nancy Love

Borchardt and Glysson Collegiate Professor
Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Glen Daigger

Professor of Engineering Practice, Civil and Environmental Engineering


The U-M Urban Collaboratory was featured in the September 2017 issue of Michigan Research.