Research and Teaching


Our Living Laboratory provides a testbed for transformative technologies and approaches to deliver enhanced social, economic and environmental outcomes in urban systems

The Living Laboratory and Urban Observatory support research in a wide range of areas. These include:

  • Infrastructure transitions, including net zero, resilient and adaptive infrastructure
  • Urban biodiversity and ecosystem services
  • Green infrastructure design
  • Systemic risk, resilience and opportunities
  • Realtime decision-making
  • Ethics and governance
  • Data-derived innovation
  • Behaviour change
  • Sensor development and evaluation, including air and water quality
  • Policy design and testing
  • Green aviation
  • New business models
  • Water quality and wastewater treatment
Cranfield flood

Research Projects

The Living Laboratory provides a springboard for new transdisciplinary research and collaborations involving Cranfield researchers and external partners. The Living Laboratory and the UKCRIC Urban Observatory are already providing ongoing and future research opportunities, with recent research funding including:

  • NERC - Defragmenting the fragmented urban landscape. NERC: NE/W003031/1. £790K. (November 2021 - November 2025).
  • NERC - Restoring Resilient Ecosystems (RestEco). NERC: NE/V006444/1. £587K. (November 2020 - November 2024).
  • NERC - Covid-19 emergency grant - Probing Air Quality Controls in the Oxford-Milton Keynes-Cambridge Arc. NERC: NE/V009737/1. (June 2020 - December 2021).
  • NERC - Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service Sustainability Programme - BESS Urban: Fragments, functions and flows (FUE3S). NERC: NE/J015067/1. £776K. (October 2012 - April 2017).
  • UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (RFPIF) Net Zero Pilot fund - Net Zero Research Airport. £3.1m (£210K Urban Observatory).
  • UK Collaboratorium for Research in Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC): Urban Observatories (Strand B). EPSRC: EP/P016782/1. (April 2017 – March 2022). £1.05m to fund the Cranfield Urban Observatory.
  • UKCRIC Pump Priming – CORONA: City Observatory Research platform for iNnovation and Analytics. EPSRC: EP/R013411/1. (Feb 2018 - Jan 2020).
  • NERC/ESRC DREAM CDT studentship – DIGITAL METROPOLiS – Digital METRics Optimising Outcomes for infrastructure Life-cycle Integration Strategies.
  • Higher Education Impact Fund (HEIF) – Cranfield Living Laboratory – Developing a Testbed for Industry and Policymakers and accompanying Advisory Panel. (November 2018 – July 2019).
  • Higher Education Impact Fund (HEIF) - Cranfield Living Laboratory - Testbed for Industry and Policymakers.
  • UKCRIC - Data and Analytics Facility for National Infrastructure (DAFNI) Champion.
  • WIRe DTC PhD studentship - Domestic water use and behaviour change. Funded by EPSRC and industry partner.
Buried infrastructure


Since 2015 the Living Laboratory has been used in numerous MSc courses and currently forms a key component of the Environmental Management for Business, Environmental Engineering, Geographical Information Management and Sustainability Mastership courses. It is also being used in MK:U undergraduate courses, including The Digital World CDMA and The Digital World DTS, where it forms the basis for a day-long group project.

The Living Laboratory has supported group and thesis projects commissioned by PSUs including Estates and Cranfield Airport through the Living Laboratory Working Group. Many of these projects have provided pilot studies and datasets/tools that are now being incorporated in the Living Laboratory and Urban Observatory. Examples of such activities include:

  • Induction week visits to campus facilities, including the Combined Heat and Power plant and waste water treatment works – Environmental Management for Business MSc, Environmental Engineering MSc.
  • ISO14001 audit exercise – Environmental Management for Business MSc.
  • Risk assessment practical/assignment using the waste water treatment works - Risk Management and Reliability Engineering module.
  • Campus climate change risk assessment – Environmental Risk MSc Dissertation and Thesis.

The Urban Observatory has formed the basis of numerous MSc group and thesis projects. Examples of recent projects include:

Air Quality

  • Air quality impact of airfield operations at Cranfield Airport


  • Maximising environmental net gain in urban green corridors
  • Benefits of green spaces within Cranfield campus
  • Sensing soil temperatures and soil moisture in urban green spaces on the university campus

Climate Risk and Adaptation

  • Develping a climate change adaptation strategy for Cranfield University


  • Cranfield 2025: Investigation of the optimal renewable energy strategy
  • Financial and environmental modelling of a biomass boiler installation in the UK
  • Use of energy metering to improve energy use and efficiency on the Cranfield campus
  • A mathematical model for the optimal operation of a microgrid: A case for economic and environmental quantifications
  • Energy self sufficiency on campus

Food Sustainability

  • Evolving sustainability at Cranfield University - Using approaches to green the food-chain in self-catering accommodation
  • Sustainable food and beverage strategy

Geographical Information Systems

  • Asset management using GIS Collectors application
  • Cranfield Airport GIS database and flooding assessment

Waste and Recycling

  • Cranfield University Waste Group Projecy: Cranfield Looks at Recycling (CLARE)

Water Science

  • Surface water strategy
Living Lab beekeeping
Living Lab biodiversity plot
Solar water heater
Soil sensor