Building Smarter,
Healthier Cities Together

The Urban Collaboratory partners with communities to solve on-the-ground challenges such as making drinking water safer, improving infrastructure, increasing access to healthy food, and much more. Collaboratory team members work directly with city stakeholders to identify their needs and develop solutions guided by smart city technology and novel urban design methods.

It Starts with Cities

The Urban Collaboratory’s work starts in the city itself, and then connects to campus —not the other way around. Researchers work with local stakeholders to define and scope initiatives based on the pressing challenges facing urban centers. Smart city technologies are designed into scalable and robust urban solutions by Urban Collaboratory teams before being implemented at pilot-scale in cities.

Urban Collaboratory projects integrate information technologies and sensing in a comprehensive fashion to observe, manage, and control urban processes—all with the goal of improving residents’ health and overall quality of life. These initiatives create what are known as “smart and healthy cities.”

Beyond the Lab

“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. Rather than pushing research agendas on client cities, this model embraces collaboration as a means of better understanding the challenges and needs that the community identifies.”

Jerome Lynch

Former Chair, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Urban Collaboratory Founder

Technology for
the Greater Good

When cities use technology to solve problems, they become “smart cities.”

Research Themes

While each city we serve is very unique, seven themes crop up again and again, no matter the location. Within these seven themes, our research aims to answer questions including: How do we pay for smart cities? How can cities enable social mobility? How can energy become clean and affordable? And much more.

These themes are the focus of our research, and all of our projects are designed to create solutions in at least one of these areas.

Urban Collaboratory
in the News

February 6, 2023

CEE Engineers Receive Erb Family Foundation Grants

U-M CEE engineers have received two grants totaling more than $1.17 million from the Erb Family Foundation to research regional coordination, with a focus on optimizing wastewater and stormwater systems operations, and assisting residents and municipalities in managing these water issues.

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October 19, 2022

CEE receives NSF grant to support independent mobility in people with different physical abilities

CEE Professors Carol Menassa and Vineet Kamat are the lead PIs on a project that is looking at long-term ways to provide new solutions for people who use wheelchairs for mobility in indoor and outdoor built environments, with a goal of improving their independence and reducing health care costs.

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July 5, 2022

GLWA Report Offers Recommendations to Improve Response to Severe Rain

UM-CEE Professor Glen Daigger was the principal investigator on the six-person independent panel examining Metro Detroit’s historic flooding in Summer 2021. The goal of the recently-issued report is to provide infrastructure solutions to address short-, medium-, and long-term flooding problems.

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November 12, 2021

Energy from waste: $6.8 million for Cow-Inspired Biodigesters

University of Michigan leads a collaboration to advance a renewable methane ecosystem. Cattle are supremely efficient at digesting tough materials, and a proposed energy-production system based, in part, on cow stomachs could generate 40% more power from municipal waste streams.

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November 12, 2021

Michigan Radio NPR Piece on Stormwater Management/Dynamic Control

In areas where floods were once rare, now some neighborhoods are flooding repeatedly. Stormwater sewers are being overwhelmed by more intense storms. Most of the solutions call for big pipes and expensive construction. A group of researchers is instead helping cities use their current systems better

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December 8, 2020

Removing and Reusing Phosphorus from Wastewater

U-M is working with the Great Lakes Water Authority to investigate the transition to a biological treatment process to not only remove phosphorus from wastewater but also to concentrate it into a form where it can be recovered and turned into recycled fertilizer.

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October 12, 2020

Improving Construction Worker Safety with Wearable Sensors

Professor SangHyun Lee and team are placing inexpensive wearable sensors on construction workers to measure things such as anxiety, fatigue and stress on active construction sites.

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October 12, 2020

Engineers Service to Society

At U-M CEE, we're building on our enduring legacy to tackle some of the most complex challenges facing our society and our planet. More than any other engineering discipline, we are in service to society advancing the common good. Check out our video to see why it's great to be CEE!

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August 5, 2020

Treating PFAS water contamination with cold plasma

University of Michigan researchers are developing better plasma technology that can destroy PFAS compounds.

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August 27, 2019

Here’s what Ann Arbor-area lawmakers are doing about PFAS

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell raised her voice Tuesday night when a constituent suggested she and other lawmakers aren’t approaching the issue of PFAS with enough urgency.

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