Supporting research in the built environment

August 2023

Diagonal is committed to educative partnerships. As a purpose-driven organisation, we support new research that might bring us closer to addressing big challenges in place planning, like achieving net-zero, improving community health, and addressing social inequalities.

We’ve already built a number of successful partnerships and working relationships with universities and academic institutions and we are putting out a call for new partnerships for 2024.

Join us as we create an enabling mentoring environment to support researchers and departments to uphold the rights to the city and develop better cities that work for everyone. Get in touch here and share this call with your networks if you would like to work with Diagonal. We are looking for research partners in the fields of geographic information science, city planning or a related domain.

We can act as a resource for students working on ‘challenges’ or set challenges as an industry partner. We can join research groups interested in working with the private sector. We can work with you on mentoring, and give seminars in our work and sector. We approach all our projects with openness and transparency and bring data and tooling to help partners explore ideas for positive change, exploring their impact on city spaces.

Here are a few examples of our academic partnerships to date:

Strathclyde Business School

We are working with MBA students from The University of Strathclyde Business School. They are applying their studies to build customer profiles for clients working with geospatial analysis tools in the built environment. This includes customer segmentation across the market for tools/services that people use when investing in the built environment. We have introduced them to our wider partnership work including that with CivTech Scotland discussed in this journal entry.

UCL Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering

We are also excited to announce another partnership - working with an MSc student at UCL Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering. The MSc student is exploring ‘Barriers to active travel’ as a topic for her thesis. Her research is relevant in understanding the 15-minute neighbourhood concept, which is an idea taking hold with planners currently working on city design.

The Covid-19 pandemic saw changes in cities, such as the addition of ‘slow streets’ or active-travel-only streets. In many cases, these measures were implemented as temporary measures, as a reaction to the need for social distancing and stay-at-home orders. As we emerge into the recovery stage, many of these measures persist. Decision-makers for many cities and towns are rethinking how highstreets are used, with an emphasis on local vibrancy and support for active travel.

We proposed exploring conditions that restrict pedestrian travel, but which might represent low-cost infrastructure changes to improve accessibility. For example, gate closures, primary street crossings without streetlights or tactile paving might restrict accessibility or make travel feel unsafe. The MSc student is using our open source geospatial engine Bedrock (b6) to explore OSM data, define accessibility barriers, and run accessibility analysis.

EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Geospatial Systems

We recently developed strong links with the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Geospatial Systems, including this collaborative partnership between Newcastle University and the University of Nottingham.

In that project Diagonal was the industry partner for the CDT’s ‘challenge week’ which ran 24-27 April 2023. Wee set the students the challenge of using b6 to explore the 15-minute city concept. We are committed to supporting the CDT’s future plans and look forward to more collaborations.

Our team also has strong academic links and a commitment to positive mentoring.

UWE Bristol: University of the West of England Bristol and South West RTPI Young Planners

Over the past few years Veronica has established a strong working relationship with UWE Bristol: University of the West of England Bristol. Initially this was through her involvement with the South West RTPI Young Planners network which she also chaired, and then as a member of the UWE RTPI Partnership Board, whose remit is to support the planning school, accredit new courses and ensure the course content aligns with RTPI Effective Planning School criteria.

Veronica left the Board in order to more directly support the school by taking on a temporary Associate Lecturer role – teaching second year planning students, as well as taking on additional marking responsibilities and mentoring students through their final year dissertations.

Since then, Veronica lectures on an ad hoc basis and remains in regular contact with the UWE Bristol Planning School, exploring opportunities for future collaboration.

We are keen to set challenges, work with individual researchers, and work as industry partners bringing our tooling and expertise to forge lasting relationships. Start the conversation with us at hello@diagonal.works.