UCR Research

UCR are involved in applied research projects for local governments, city administrations and international organisations such as UN-Habitat.

The quantitative and qualitative research techniques used by UCR call for a new paradigm on how to empirically address globalisation and urbanisation using big data on investment flows between cities worldwide.

Extensive research is conducted to determine how different economic factors affect wellbeing in urban areas and creative urban strategies and plans are developed in order to lead to more competitive and resilient cities. The objective is to better understand how urban planning and management depend on an integrated knowledge of a city’s local qualities and its position within regional and global systems in order to make cites more resilient to socioeconomic shocks.

UCR have collaborated with several organisations including:

  • United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat)
  • Oxford Economics
  • The African Development Bank
  • The OECD Development Centre
  • The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
  • Municipality of Rotterdam

And contributed and developed global reports and documents including:

  • The African Economic Outlook 2016
  • The state of African cities report 2018
  • Happiness and the city: the case of Rotterdam

The State of African Cities Report 2017, UN-Habitat

African Investments Movie from IHS Erasmus University Rotterdam on Vimeo. 

Research by Ronald Wall, IHS/Erasmus University Rotterdam, United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN- Habitat) and the African Development Bank

Ronald Wall, head of UCR has developed an international partnership and funding together with the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN- Habitat), Oxford Economics and the African Development Bank, for the development of “The State of African Cities Report 2017”, within the Programme Regional State of the Cities Report Series. These series analyse urban specificities from a regional perspective with a view to promoting sustainable human settlements development worldwide.

The research that UCR is responsible for, aims at analysing the roles that Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) can play in promoting diversification, growth and resilience of African urban economies. The analysis will determine the location factors attracting FDI at a country/city level for the regions of Africa and Asia and a competitiveness analysis to determine which African cities compete globally at attracting the same type of FDI. Based on this knowledge recommendations will be made for African cities on which sustainable FDI sectors to attract and which urban determinants to develop in order to enhance urban competitiveness.

The State of African Cities Report 2017, UN-Habitat

The African Economic Outlook 2016: Sustainable Cities and Structural Transformation

The African Economic Outlook 2016 featuring contribution from Prof. Dr.  Ronald Wall was a result of collaboration between the African Development Bank, the OECD Development Centre and the United Nations Development Programme.

The African Economic Outlook is an annual report analysing economic, social and political conditions across the African continent. The 15th edition focused on Sustainable Cities and Structural Transformation and was released in May 2016. Prof. Dr. Ronald Wall, head of Urban Competitiveness and Resilience specialisation, was among the international experts who have worked on Part II of the document, “Sustainable Cities and Structural Transformation”. Annex 7.A1 of the report was prepared by him with assistance by Dorcas Nthoki, Marina Salimgareeva  and Taslim Alade.

The analysis conducted by UCR referred to the topic of global financial integration of African cities represented by the flows of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to the region. The research examined factors attracting FDI across different economic sectors and regions in Africa and in the world. Understanding of the conditions allowing to attract and maintain FDI flows is crucial in the situation of shortage of domestic capital for development of African urban economies and sheds light on region-specific conditions hindering the integration of Africa in global economic context. This analysis forms part of UN-Habitat’s State of African Cities Report 2017, which examines the possibilities of catalysing urban development in Africa with facilitation of FDI. 

Read The African Economic Outlook 2016:

Happiness and the City: The case of Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Happy Rotterdam Movie from IHS Erasmus University Rotterdam on Vimeo. 

Research and visualization by Ronald Wall, IHS/Erasmus University Rotterdam.Database provided by Cris de Vries and Roland van der Heijden, Municipality of Rotterdam. 

The research examines the relationship between the built environment of the city of Rotterdam and the happiness of people. In particular, it identifies which urban characteristics of the built environment and urban life domains significantly influence the subjective wellbeing of urban residents.

The new field on the ‘Happiness Economics’ aims to measure wellbeing and determine the characteristics affecting it. Happiness is related to many important outcomes that are highly valued in society such as better health conditions, better job performance and quality of life. The importance of happiness has been recognized as an appropriate measure of development and a goal of public policy. An increasing number of international organizations and governments are now measuring subjective wellbeing in order to formulate better public policies and improve lives of citizens.

One of the objectives of this research is to explain how different urban life domains (e.g. housing, neighbourhood, amenities) and other non-urban life domains (e.g. family, social life, work and health) could determine residents’ happiness in selected neighbourhoods in Rotterdam.

Happiness and the City: The case of Rotterdam, The Netherlands


Research and visualization by Ronald Wall, IHS/Erasmus University Rotterdam

Today, China is the second biggest economy in the world. It has traditionally been a good attractor of international investment, which comes from global multinationals that have either set up production facilities in Chinese cities or focused on gaining a higher share of their market. This study shows that in the past ten years, China has also become a powerful outward investor in cities around the world, and its growth is remarkable. This means that China is becoming a powerful controlling force in the global economy. The study identifies which international cities and regions have received the most Chinese outward investment. Based on these investment counts an analysis is carried which shows that European cities with large local Chinese populations are more capable of attracting investments from mainland China, than those European cities with small local Chinese populations.  



SOUTH RISE: Emergent Southern Cities within Global Investment Networks

Ronald Wall and Lucía Gómez will conduct a seminar/workshop titled “SOUTH RISE: Emergent Southern Cities within Global Investment Networks” at the Word Urban Forum this coming April in Medellín, Colombia. 

Foreign investments into cities strongly influence urban development. The share of investments from Southern cities into global destinations grows at twice the speed as the rest of the world. Southern cities, once dependent on the slowing developed world, are now in need of new growth markets. Therefore it’s important to understand how Southern cities are evolving in relation to changing demand. Because investments strongly impact cities, urban development disciplines need to better understand their cities position in local and global economic scales. Why? Firstly, understanding a city’s “glocal” identity can result in more effective development strategies and facilitate resilient/sustainable cities. By targeting prospective sectors, and creating complementarities with other cities, Southern cities can compete better. Secondly, this helps assess a city’s capabilities, identify opportunities, and make smart choices in relation to investment networks. Through statistical and GIS techniques, unique understandings are translated into urban scenarios and physical programs. The event includes presentations by Ronald Wall and Lucia Gomez, followed by a workshop on the methods and utility of this approach.

South Rise Movie

South Rise Movie from IHS Erasmus University Rotterdam on Vimeo.

The visuals reveal the total network of investments to countries in the South. The analysis is based on FDI Markets data 2003 – 2012. The white nodes represent the outward investments from “source” countries worldwide to recipient countries in the South (grey nodes). The green linkages represent the total “greenfield” investments that have taken place between these countries. The research shows significant changes in the world economy, which will be discussed at the World Urban Forum 2014. At the forum the networks taking place between Southern cities and other cities of the world will also be shown.

SMART_NET: Evaluating the performance of Smart Cities in the Global Economic Network

Research by Ronald Wall, Filipa Pajevic, Jurian Edelenbos, and Spyridon Stavropoulos
IHS/Erasmus University Rotterdam.

SMART_NET: Evaluating the performance of Smart Cities in the Global Economic Network

SMART_NET: Evaluating the performance of Smart Cities in the Global Economic Network from IHS Erasmus University Rotterdam on Vimeo.

Heritage and Globalization

The research shows that heritage cities are more attractive to foreign investors than non-heritage cities. This because cities with strong heritage are generally more attractive to creative and knowledge intensive workers who seek a certain quality of uban lifestyle.  The presence of this human resource in turn attracts investors.

Research by Ronald Wall and Spyridon Stavropoulos
IHS/Erasmus University Rotterdam (video)

Wall R.S. and Stavropoulos S. (2014) "Heritage and Globalization", in the book "Planning the Past", ed. J.P. Corten, The Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.

Heritage and Globalization

Heritage and Globalization from IHS Erasmus University Rotterdam on Vimeo.

Report on the international network position and spatial implications of foreign direct investment in South Holland

De Strijd om Kapitaal - Internationale netwerkpositie en ruimtelijke neerslag
van directe buitenlands investeringen in Zuid-Holland (2013), English translation pending

Ronald Wall, Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies,
Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam
Martijn Burger, Erasmus School of Economics,
Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam