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Project Summary


Medellín Urban Innovation (#MUI) was a research collaboration between academic and non-academic institutions in the United Kingdom and in Colombia. It was a two-year project that received a Newton Institutional Links Grant from the British Council. The aim of the project was to evaluate through scoping research and knowledge exchange, to what extent urban innovation in Medellín (Colombia) has helped increase social equity and well-being in the city.


The project was led by Dr Soledad Garcia Ferrari with Dr Harry Smith. Key partners in the research international collaboration are: Escuela del Hábitat, Universidad Nacional de Colombia Sede Medellín (UNAL); Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana (UPB); and Universidad Santo Tomás (UST). In addition, the project includes a range of activities such as seminars, workshops, focus groups, interviews, etc., which engage with a wider audience of academics and particularly non-academic groups.

This project explored the institutional and socio-economic context in which Medellín has achieved the internationally recognized status of an ‘innovative city’, and questioned innovation as a concept and the agendas it is linked to. It questioned to what extent social equity, environmental sustainability and citizen empowerment have been promoted through urban innovation as per the ULI claims when it conferred the prize. In addressing this question, four specific themes structured the investigation, each with a research question: ‘housing and habitat’, ‘cultural values and heritage’, ‘public realm, green infrastructure and wellbeing’, and ‘mobility and transport infrastructure’.The project engaged in an exploration of these four themes in order to identify and shape further in-depth research projects, in order to achieve a critical understanding of urban innovation and its effect on Medellín as a ‘model’ city for Latin America and beyond. 

The overall aim of the research and capacity-building programme was to identify means to make Medellín a more socially equitable and environmentally sustainable city. This key aim was addressed through meeting the following objectives:


  1. Identify policy, institutional and socio-economic constraints and barriers that have led to the existing issues in the development of the city as well as other issues that may arise as a result of the currently ongoing study of the POT.

  2. Identify instruments in the current planning legislation and guidance that would allow the urban development issues to be addressed.

  3. Identify and engage the appropriate stakeholders and forms of partnership that may implement pilot projects in each of the areas of concern, as well as champion the roll-out of initiatives that may result from such pilot projects.

  4. Conduct issue-specific scoping studies into: city centre renewal including management of heritage and cultural values; environmentally and socially appropriate location and form of new developments; appropriate forms of housing with mixed income levels and communal spaces; public realm improvement, accessibility and connectivity; and informal area upgrading and social integration.

  5. Build capacity in Colombian and UK universities through the up-skilling of existing and new staff on the themes structuring this proposal and strengthening of their research infrastructures in conservation, landscape architecture, housing, and urban design and planning.


Medellín, Colombia


University of Edinburgh

Heriot-Watt University

Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Sede Medellín

Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana

Universidad Santo Tomás

UK Research Team

Dr Soledad Garcia-Ferrari

Harry Smith

Dr Penny Travlou

Dr Ryan Woolrych

Tiago Torres Campos

Dr Helena Rivera

Stephanie Crane De Narváez

Colombia Research Team

Prof Françoise Coupé

Diana Alvarez
Beatriz Jaramillo

Luis Fernando Gonzalez

Carlos Montoya

Carlos Velasquez

Funding Body

Newton Fund, Managed by the British Council 

External Links

Knowledge co-creation loop ENGLISH A4-01
housing3 copy.jpg

In the context of the processes of peace building towards coexistence, what is the impact of urban policies on the habitat conditions of the most vulnerable sectors in the city of Medellín? 

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housing & habitat
housing & habitat
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To what extent and in what way have the processes and strategies for the provision of public space (from the perspective of its creation, management and perception) contributed to socio-economic and environmental integration in Medellín? 

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public space, infrastructure & wellbeing
public space, green infrastructure & wellbeing

To what extent have the ‘innovative’ city planning approaches and new emerging creative practices included public participation and collaboration in the definition of cultural values and shared spaces in the city of Medellin? 

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heritage & cultural values
heritage & cultural values
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What has been the impact of the innovative mobility strategies on quality of life and social equity? 

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mobility &
socio-spatial integration
mobility & socio-spatial integration
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Medellín urban innovation #mui
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