University of Minnesota
Office of the Vice President for Research

Research Advancement homefiller

Convergence Colloquia

Smart Cities and Infrastructure

The Smart Cities and Infrastructure colloquium brought together experts, practitioners and community leaders from across the U and state to hold a focused dialogue about how we can further connect our knowledge and resources to create communities that are more intelligent, efficient and livable.

Read the report: Smart Cities and Infrastructure

Serendipity grants awarded

The Mental Health Benefits of Nature Experience: Translating Science to Urban Design

Bonnie Keeler, Lead Scientist, Institute on the Environment (PI)

U of M Collaborators: Kristen Nelson, Professor, Department of Forest Resources and Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology, College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences (Co-PI); Yingling Fan, Associate Professor, Urban and Regional Planning Program, Humphrey School of Public Affairs

External Collaborators: Lacy Shelby, Principal Urban Designer, City of Minneapolis (Co-PI); Nora Riemenschneider, Economic Development Coordinator, City of St. Paul; Adam Arvidson, Landscape Architect, Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board; Jenna Fletcher, Program Director, Trust for Public Land; Sarah Stewart, Project Specialist, City of Minneapolis; Sam Rockwell, Active Living Project Manager, Blue Cross and Blue Shield; Gregory Bratman, Doctoral Student, Stanford University; Taylor Ricketts, Professor, University of Vermont; Timon McPhearson, Assistant Professor, New School of Social Research

Research increasingly suggests that when cities include elements of nature in an urban setting — such as parks, gardens and other green spaces — their residents experience improved mental wellbeing, including improved mood, emotional control, memory, attention and ability to resist impulsive behavior. Researchers from the U of M will partner with researchers from Stanford University, University of Vermont and The New School at the intersection of social and natural sciences to advance research into these and other mental health benefits that people can experience from urban nature.

The project will allow the research team to understand where the greatest potential is for change and will guide the design of urban landscapes going forward, helping enhance residents’ wellbeing in cities across the U.S.

Making Smart Cities Sustainable: Focus on Food Flows in Hennepin County, MN

Anu Ramaswami, Professor, Center for Science, Technology and Environmental Policy, Humphrey School of Public Affairs (PI)

U of M Collaborators: Jason Hill, Associate Professor, Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (Co-PI); Frank Duoma, Associate Director, State and Local Policy Program, Humphrey School of Public Affairs (Co-PI); Mark Reiner, Research Associate, Center for Science, Technology and Environmental Policy, Humphrey School of Public Affairs (Co-PI)

External Collaborators: Alene Tchourumoff, Director, Strategic Planning and Resources, Hennepin County; Karen Nikolai, Healthy Community Planning Manager, Hennepin County (Co-PI); Todd Graham, Principal Forecaster, Metropolitan Council; Connie Kozlak, Transportation Planning Manager, Metropolitan Council

Understanding the supply chains serving a city is crucial to aiding in the development of a smart, sustainable community. Researchers will develop a “Smart-Food-Flows” database that tracks and maps the food supply chains flowing in and out of the Minneapolis area. Using freight-related information and other existing data sources, the tool will help researchers identify the volume of food being imported and exported, the transit routes they follow and the sustainability of that supply.

Ultimately, the project will investigate how local food production can be sustainable both economically and environmentally, while also being resilient enough to weather shortages caused by supply or climate.

Minnesota Smart City Infrastructure Stress Transparency Tool

Len Kne, Associate Director, U-Spatial (PI)

U of M Collaborators: Bradford Henry, Adjunct Faculty, Technological Leadership Institute (co-PI); Andrew Owen, Director, Accessibility Observatory, College of Science and Engineering and Center for Transportation Studies; Frank Douma, Associate Director, State and Local Policy Program, Humphrey School of Public Affairs; Claudia Neuhauser, Director, Informatics Institute

External Collaborators: Thomas J. Eggum, Senior Consultant, TKDA, and Steering Committee Member, MN2050 (Co-PI); Rebecca Otto, State Auditor, Minnesota Office of the State Auditor; Bernadine Joselyn, Director of Public Policy and Engagement, Blandin Foundation; Mitch Rasmussen, Assistant Commissioner State Aid, MN Department of Transportation

Minnesota has a large amount of aging infrastructure — from roads and bridges to traffic signals and storm water systems — that will require maintenance and replacement over the next few decades. Researchers will collect data to create a public, statewide database of infrastructure needs represented as a visual map. The format will show the location, value, age and condition of infrastructure in a format that is easy for the public, media and lawmakers to understand, encouraging better-informed decision making about how to meet maintenance needs.

The transparency of the database will lead to better planning, reduced overall costs and fewer interruptions for the residents who benefit from the infrastructure.