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Competition: RICS Cities for our Future Challenge

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors has launched an international ideas contest – featuring a £50,000 top prize – focusing on major urban challenges around the world (Deadline: 31 May)

Open to students, start-ups and young professionals in the fields of surveying, design, architecture and engineering, the competition seeks innovative proposals to combat emerging issues, such as urbanisation, climate change and resource scarcity in 24 cities around the world.

The call for ideas – supported by the United Kingdom National Commission (UKNC) for UNESCO and the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) – is part of RICS’s 150th-anniversary celebrations this year. UK cities selected for the contest include Glasgow, Manchester and London while overseas cities include Amsterdam, Mumbai, Mexico City, Lagos, Singapore and Beijing.



RICS chief executive Sean Tompkins said: ‘The world’s cities are growing all the time, creating a range of challenges that will need to be addressed if they are to become safe, clean and attractive places to live. Throughout our 150 years, chartered surveyors have been crucial to urban development and improving communities all over the world.

‘Therefore, we are proud to be running this competition in our anniversary year, and to be actively searching for practical ideas to advance not just UK cities, but also many other cities across the globe including Beijing, Mumbai and Lagos. With the help of our RICS mentors, we hope the overall winning solution can be developed and delivered to make a real, positive impact on its respective city’s people, communities and local businesses.’

UKNC for UNESCO chair Beth Taylor said: ‘As more and more of the world’s population become city dwellers, finding ways to meet the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities – has never been more important. I believe that the innovations generated by the Cities for our Future competition could help deliver essential solutions, and I am sure that engaging young minds will help provide the spark needed to improve the lives of urban dwellers around the globe.’

Joanna Newman, chief executive and secretary general of the ACU, added: ‘Universities and their students have a pivotal role to play in finding solutions to these issues, and many of our member institutions have a wealth of expertise in this area.



‘By partnering with RICS and the UK National Commission for UNESCO on Cities for our Future, the ACU is confident that we can galvanise the knowledge, experience, and enthusiasm of our diverse membership, and encourage the development of solutions to these pressing problems.’

Each of the 24 major global cities selected for the contest has its own unique brief. The Glasgow brief focuses on tackling the city’s high levels of homelessness, while Manchester’s brief invites participants to harness data and technology to better improve resident’s quality of life.

The London contest will meanwhile focus on improving the city’s air quality and encourage investment in cleaner air initiatives. The best 12 submissions from all of the categories will be shortlisted for the £50,000 prize – due to be announced in November – and will receive professional support to further develop their concepts.

How to apply


The deadline for applications is 31 May

Contact details


Visit the competition website for more information

Q&A with Sarah Speirs

The Global 150 programme director at RICS discusses her ambitions for the competition

Sarah Speirs

Sarah Speirs

Sarah Speirs

Why are you holding a contest for innovative ideas to tackle urban challenges around the world?

2018 marks RICS’ 150th anniversary and we wanted to do something big and forward-looking to celebrate it. The surveying profession has always been visionary and over the last 150th years the profession has played a crucial role in the development and safeguarding of cities.

At a time when our cities and their populations face unprecedented challenges, we felt that setting a series of challenges that we as a profession could do something about would be fitting for our 150th year.

Our aim is to mark this anniversary by finding solutions to the challenges faced by the world’s cities face and to inspire the next generation of surveyors to enter the profession.

Cities around the world face very similar problems so we hope that the final idea can be used to help cities the world over.

What is your vision for the potential solutions which could be provided?

We have asked people to come up with ideas that address problems affecting 24 cities around the world in relation to climate change, resource scarcity or urbanisation. However, we see this as more of a guide and people are welcome to put forward solutions to problems facing any city around the world.

The idea isn’t to be prescriptive. We want to hear the views and most creative ideas of the next generation; those people who are going to be living in the cities of the future. And that is why we have launched this competition.

Water shortage

Water shortage

Water shortage

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

We ideally want to hear from the next generation so are focusing our efforts on reaching out to universities and young professionals in surveying, architecture and engineering firms.

We don’t mind who comes up with the idea, what is important is that it is innovative and has the potential to be put into practice. Beyond the fantastic prize, the entrants have the chance to get their idea in front some of the leading figures in surveying. The 12 finalists will be mentored by an experienced RICS professional to help them develop their idea. We also hope to interest the media in the competition so that the entrants are given a platform to talk about their brilliant solutions.

Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?

This competition marks a new direction for us and is something we decided to do because it’s our 150th anniversary. If it’s a huge success, however, who knows what we might do next!

Are there any other recent solutions to major urban problems you have been impressed by?

Yes, we were inspired by a range of solutions as we were developing the competition and we’ve included some of these in our launch video. For example, in Amsterdam they have been using discarded shipping containers to provide low-cost housing for students. While in Mexico City rain harvesting projects helped reduce flooding and cut energy costs as well as helping to tackle a water crisis in the city.

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