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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Leadership for the responsible design of digital innovation projects in the urban built environment focusing on sustainable development

This research aims to bridge the gap between technological advancements and ethical and responsible practices in smart cities by identifying the leadership competencies required for city professionals to develop responsible urban digital innovation projects with a focus on sustainable development. It validates the practical application of the Digital Cities for Change Competency Framework (DC2-CF), which integrates three sociotechnical dimensions: digital and technical, governance and management, and ethics and responsible innovation, within diverse smart cities case studies. The study involves defining the knowledge-based competencies of the DC2-CF which were validated by the analysis of four case studies. These case studies were selected according to their complex and interdisciplinary nature which helps identify leadership competencies to address the research question. Semi-structured interviews were conducted to collect secondary data, validate the primary data obtained from publicly available sources, corroborate the analysis, and lay the foundation for the cross-case analysis. Results and analysis show that interdisciplinary competencies were crucial despite the main focus on technology. DTLE's digital twin focused on monitoring tools while demonstrating governance and management competencies in citizen participation. NUAR's digital map focused on data-sharing ecosystems while emphasising ethics and responsible innovation competencies in digital rights. KLIP's digital map focused on system performance indicators while utilising governance and management competencies in storytelling. The +CityxChange project considered the socio-technical innovation theory while demonstrating ethics and responsible innovation competencies such as openness and inclusion, and empowerment for responsiveness. The discussion illustrates the complex relationship between competencies and project delivery, highlighting variations in how they are utilised across various projects. Indicating the importance of a flexible competency application that aligns with the maturity of understanding the relevant competencies and their integration. The crucial nature of competencies was discovered to be dynamic, reflecting the sector's ongoing evolution and the distinctive challenges encountered in each project. The study provides practical insights and recommendations for city managers and built environment professionals. Emphasising the value of proactive accountability, interdisciplinary competencies, inclusivity of perspectives, proactive risk management and the role of ethical considerations in delivering successful outcomes. These recommendations support a more comprehensive practical approach to urban transformation while contributing to enhancing responsible urban digital innovation and its alignment with sustainable development goals. Further work directions were also provided.



Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.