UKNA 2012 - 2016

Urban Knowledge Network Asia (UKNA) 2012 - 2016

Marie Curie Actions ‘International Research Staff Exchange Scheme’ (IRSES)

In 2012, the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS) was awarded a grant of € 1.25 million under the Marie Curie Actions ‘International Research Staff Exchange Scheme’ (IRSES). This is part of the European Union’s Research Executive Agency’s Seventh Framework Programme. Entitled 'Urban Knowledge Network Asia' (UKNA), the IIAS-led programme consisted of a network of over 100 researchers from 17 partner institutes in Europe, China, India and the United States.

One of the key objectives of the EU-funded programme -as it still is- was the nurturing of contextualised and policy-relevant knowledge on Asian cities. In the context of the EU funding this was attempted via a series of research staff exchanges and specifically targeted case-study-based research, pursuing three avenues of inquiry: 

1. Ideas of the City
2. Cities by and for the people
3. Future of Cities 

Coordinated by IIAS, with Paul Rabé acting as overall coordinator, the programme was succesfully completed in March 2016. 146 scholars and practitioners were able to carry out 206 research exchanges and 590 months worth of secondments at 12 different UKNA partner institutes in Europe, China and India. These secondments have succeeded in bringing the network partners closer together in collaborative research initiatives, roundtables and seminar activities on a variety of urban topics in East and South Asia, with comparative cases from European cities. 


Editors from across the UKNA network have contributed to three edited volumes, containing the work of many researchers who have undertaken secondments through UKNA between 2012 and 2016 as well as that of selected external scholars.

The three volumes are published in the IIAS Asian Cities book series.

Volume I Ideas of the City in Asian Settings (2018)
Volume II Cities in Asia by and for the People (2019)
Volume III Future Challenges of Cities in Asia (expected in 2019)

Partner institutions

- Ambedkar University, Delhi, India
- College of Architecture and Urban Planning, Beijing University of Technology, Beijing, China
- China Academy of Urban Planning and Design, Beijing, China
- CEPT University, Ahmedabad, India
- Centre for Urban and Regional Studies, Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, Shanghai, China
- Department of Architecture, Hong Kong University, Hong Kong
- Indian Institute for Human Settlements, Bengaluru, India
- School of Architecture, Tianjin University, Tianjin, China
- Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Macau, Macau*
- Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore, Singapore*
- Graduate Institute of Planning and Building, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan*
- Development and Planning Unit, University College London, UK
- Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Paris-Belleville, France
- International Institute for Asian Studies, Leiden, the Netherlands
- Faculty of Architecture, Delft University of Technology, Delft, the Netherlands
- Sol Price School of Public Policy, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, USA
* Strategic partners, not participating in research staff exchanges covered by the original IRSES grant.

UKNA Methodology

To ensure the achievement of UKNA’s key objective, a core methodology can be identified. UKNA advocates:

  • Policy-relevant academic research
    UKNA seeks to provide a bridge between academia and practice. UKNA research projects should be both high-quality in academic terms and relevant to policy makers and urban practitioners inAsia and beyond.
  • Multi-disciplinary urban research
    UKNA seeks to identify how physical, social, economic, cultural and institutional factors shape the growth and evolution of cities. To be able to understand cities as complex, organic and dynamic systems the UKNA encourages dynamic and inter-disciplinary research.
  • A bottom-up approach
    UKNA is represented by more than 100 researchers coming from 13 different institutes located across three continents. Their backgrounds vary both in experience and in research topic. This pluralistic and decentralised approach intends to represent a multitude of different voices and approaches to the common research object of Asian cities.