This is the question being asked by “Visions of Cambridge in 2065”, one of six local city case studies co-funded by the UK Government Office for Science’s Foresight Future of Cities project.
The aim of this project is to open up the possibility of imagining the future of Cambridge to a broad cross-section of people who live and work in the city; eliciting visions of what it could look like in 2065, and to map diverse projections for its future.
A report released today (7th September) brings together 24 visions from city and county-level policymakers, researchers and people who work for companies, local organisations and networks. In the next phase of the project, we will ask members of the public to comment and add to these visions and to bring a wider range of views to bear on the question of the future of Cambridge.
The contributors to this report were all asked to think about the issues they considered critical to the continued and future success of Cambridge as a city. Each of them identified their priorities for where we will live, how we will live, and how we should respond to the changes the city will undergo over the next 50 years. Some common themes emerged, including:
Where we live
Visions of the future built environment of Cambridge were overwhelmingly green: both verdant and ecological. With improved green spaces and increased agricultural production outside and inside the city, the environmental heritage will be protected and enhanced. Equally, new forms of public and private transport (such as driverless cars) will drive on or near clean streets lined with ecologically sound new and retrofitted buildings in keeping with Cambridge’s rich architectural heritage (which means we will continue living with tourists!). Multicultural neighbourhoods will provide new living landscapes with welcoming environmental and cultural spaces. In 2065, Cambridge will function as a global leader at the same time as playing a critical role locally as a small, attractive and environmental hub surrounded by smaller settlements.
How we live
Cambridge was overwhelmingly seen as a city that will thrive through improved connections, among diverse communities within the city and also further afield. In addition to being more diverse, Cambridge will be a more equal place in which to live and learn. As well as building strong community ties in the immediate vicinity, in 2065 Cambridge will be a world leader in sustainable tourism. It will be a healthy city, growing more of its own food and improving the city’s cyclability, which would also help Cambridge better cope with a future energy crisis. It will be a smarter city, developing and using cleantech and collaborative creative and cultural spaces.
How we respond
Perhaps unsurprisingly, technology was the aspect of Cambridge’s future that was most frequently mentioned in these visions. Innovations in technology were foregrounded, along with innovations in cleantech, agriculture, cultural investments, and entrepreneurship. Governance issues were mentioned several times, particularly with regards to improving localism, participation and equity. Whilst the unpredictability of the future was a recurrent theme, so was the importance of planning for this uncertain future and in laying strong foundations for the city to build on and to continue to go from strength to strength.
In summary, our 24 contributors see Cambridge in 2065 as a city that is green and connected - inside and out. Cambridge is seen as both a global leader and local hub, for high-tech innovation, culture and also for communities. The high quality of life associated with the city has been maintained and developed, providing a recreational and cultural match to its continuing intellectual and economic growth.
Above all, Cambridge is viewed as a beautiful city that attracts people from all over the world and whose citizens can live healthy, happy, and equal lives. Maybe this is a vision we can all sign up to?
Dr Rosamunde Almond, Dr Moira Faul and Dr Konstantina Stamati
7th September 2015
This project was co-led by the Cambridge Forum for Sustainability and the Environment and the Centre for Science and Policy (CSaP) Policy Challenges Programme together with a consortium of people from across the city.
Five other local city case studies were co-funded by the UK Government Office for Science’s Foresight Future of Cities project and their reports can be explored via the Future of Cities blog.