Cities worldwide share challenges posed by the effects of urbanization and centralization. These relate to among other things smart growth and the challenge to reduce the environmental burden.

 From a social science research perspective, Nordregio contributes to increasing knowledge on the main challenges, drivers, and enablers to support ecologically responsive, socially just, and economically inclusive Nordic cities. This involves monitoring Nordic planning systems and investigating planning processes and practices, strategies, and solutions in the built environment. It also includes understanding the different roles of planning authorities across different levels of governance and their roles in supporting and regulating local land use. Equally important is the analysis of the relationship between public and private actors in shaping and implementing these processes.

Nordregio’s research underlines questions, such as, how to plan for climate-neutral cities, while striving for equality, social inclusion, and opportunities for all urban citizens, regardless of age, life situation, functional ability and income. Finding a balance between efficiency and legitimacy is another stronghold of Nordregio’s enquiry, with attention on how particular policies, programs and/or technological solutions enable or hinder the participation of people in urban life. As part of a critical approach to urban planning, Nordregio brings forward new planning and design visions that shed light on how to bridge principles that, at first glance, seem contradictory, such as densifying urban structures whilst preserving green spaces.

During 2021-2024, Nordregio aims to advance knowledge on the transformative capacities of cities to deal with emergent challenges such as adapting to a changing climate, coping with resource scarcity, increasing segregation and growing urban health inequalities. Nordregio also aims to continue comparing the Nordic planning systems and how various stakeholders contribute to achieving national cross-sectoral targets (e.g. climate, biodiversity) through the means of urban and regional planning. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on urban areas, such as town centres, access to green spaces and recreational areas, office spaces, university towns, and the impacts on both transport systems within and between cities, will also be of importance for Nordregio.