The CSIRO has launched a new initiative that will drive the development, transformation and renewal of urban spaces, and help create sustainable cities of the future.

The research organisation has partnered with property developers Celestino to establish its first operational Urban Living Lab at the Sydney Science Park in western Sydney, so that researchers, industry, government and communities can come together and create, design and test innovative urban development concepts, moving smart ideas beyond the lab into the real world. Researchers will use this test environment to examine the connections between issues such as urban greening, energy efficiency, demands for water, community well-being and health, and the impacts of technological advancements.

Research outcomes will determine the course of development and renewal of cities into sustainable spaces in the face of pressures such as population growth and climate change.

Some of the research topics already under consideration at the lab include: the impact of increased urban greening on local temperatures and ecology, changes in energy and water demand and consumption, and the influence on community well-being and health; smart water systems that can efficiently provide different classes of water for different uses on demand; and the influence of digital disruptions and information technology advances on urban structure, industry development and community connectivity.

Assistant Minister for Science Craig Laundy explains that the Urban Living Lab offers a new way for researchers, industry, community and government to co-innovate and provide a place to address a range of challenges facing the urban sector.

Minister Laundy is also confident that the new initiative will deliver significant urban, environmental and innovative outcomes for the region and beyond, with the public-private collaboration not only tackling important issues for Australian cities, but also providing a boost to the local economy with jobs and opportunities for STEM students.

CSIRO Land and Water Acting Director Paul Bertsch said collaborative science initiatives like the Urban Living Lab in partnership with government and industry will enable Australian cities to not only move towards a more sustainable future but also become more economically, environmentally and socially resilient.

Celestino CEO John Vassallo Celestino observes that urban living technologies need to be tested in a real urban environment, similar to how new medical technologies are tested in a lab. Sydney Science Park offers the perfect testing ground for these inventions of tomorrow, ranging from newer ways to harness solar energy in the workplace, or store heat and keep homes cool, to sustainable transport solutions and water and energy saving technologies.

He added that the Urban Living Lab would connect inventors to mentors, scientific expertise and venture capital so that prototypes can be commercialised and released in the market.

Welcoming the new development, Mayor of Penrith John Thain said the Urban Living Lab fits with the Council’s vision to not just build Penrith as a city of the future, but also to reap benefits for communities well beyond the city’s own boundaries.