Cities and digital technology Chair

Launched in 2017 within the Urban School, in partnership with the Centre d’études européennes, this Chair studies the transformation of cities in light of the digital revolution. Its mission is to develop teaching and research on urban tech issues, by associating leading companies and organisations with the Sciences Po Urban School.

At a time when cities are tackling both the digital and environmental transitions, it is important to analyse how these processes affect urban governance. The Chair focuses on the changes currently affecting public policy implementation, residents’ ways of life, the composition of urban capitalism and the construction of urban tech markets, corporate strategies and their regulation, social mobilisation, etc. With this Chair, we aim to position Sciences Po and the Urban School at the heart of research and public debate on the digital transformation of cities.

Chair directors

Patrick Le Galès, dean of the Urban School, and Guillermo Martin, the School’s executive director, have overall responsibility for the Cities and Digital Technology Chair. The academic head of the Chair is Antoine Courmont, political scientist and urban data specialist. An academic committee sets the research agenda.

The Chair’s governance structure includes the academic committee of about 15 researchers and a partner committee. These committees meet twice a year.

Research priorities

The Chair aims to open up new fields of research by exploring the interaction between technology and local governance, around two main themes:

Analysing the relationship between digital technology and cities involves addressing fundamental issues such as the evolution of the urban form in the era of the digital city, the spatial and social inequalities that technology can induce, the relationships between urban and rural areas, and the redrawing of territorial boundaries.

The aim is to examine what the increasing use of data does to urban policy-making and identify how data is changing practices of stakeholder coordination. It is also to understand how new players are emerging in urban governance because of their capacity to collect, process and analyse data, and finally, to examine data flow governance strategies and their impact on organisations.

To this end, exploratory research based on empirical case studies has been conducted in various areas of public policy (mobility, energy, and monitoring), in different regions (Europe, Africa, the US, and Asia) and on several topics (platform, data, organisations, urban firms, startups, etc.).

Examples of the Chair’s research topics:

Dissemination of knowledge

The research results stemming from the Digital Cities Chair are disseminated:

Among the Chair’s main publications is Gouverner la ville numérique (Governing the Digital City), published by PUF in late 2019. This edited volume brings together original research on the various issues digital technology raises for urban governance.  

The results of past research have also been presented at forty university conferences and seminars in France (École des Ponts Paristech, Mines ParisTech, EHESS, Université Paris Est, and Sciences Po Bordeaux) and internationally (UCLA, New School, Copenhagen Business School, Hamburg University, etc.).  

They have also been disseminated through professional papers and public lectures given to various audiences (SNCF, CNIL, AFD, RTE, CDC, Groupe BPCE, Cerema, Waze, Métropole du Grand Paris, etc.).

Three annual symposia have been held:

New courses at the Urban School

Digital technology is a priority area of development at the Urban School.

In connection with its research programme, the Chair has developed new courses on tech-related topics at Sciences Po, within the Urban School’s various degree programmes and as part of the executive education associated with the School. Group projects have also been created thanks to our sponsors: AREP, APUR, Cisco, RTE, Tactis, EPT Grand Orly Seine Bièvre, Lime, Syntec, among others.

In the spring of 2019, with the support of the Chair, the Urban School launched a course called Imagining Urban Futures. The cross-cutting, six-lecture course aims to question imaginary urban futures from different disciplinary perspectives (futurology, design, video games, science fiction, anthropology, etc.). Its teaching objectives are to open up the field of possibilities to students, to develop their ability to anticipate the future and to deal with uncertainty.

Our plans for 2020-2022

Research: data-driven restructuring of urban governance

Enquiry into the restructuring of urban governance will be pursued from a data perspective, by jointly studying the transformation of local authorities and of public policy around three research themes:

1) Data, urban capitalism, and policy change

2) Digital technology and urban security / Safe cities

3) Digital transition and environmental transition

This research will involve comparative analysis between companies (tech companies and traditional urban industrialists), between territories (metropolis/medium-sized city, France/Europe/USA/Asia) and between policy sectors (transport/mobility, security/surveillance, energy, water).

Education: training tomorrow’s urban tech managers

The Chair’s ambition is to position the Sciences Po Urban School as the leader in education for the new urban professions that have emerged with digital technology. Chief digital officers, chief data officers, smart city managers, and urban data scientists need both to grasp the socio-political challenges of digital technology and to acquire a detailed understanding of local governance.

To this end, we wish to strengthen urban technology education through several initiatives:

Become a partner

Benefit from the work of the Chair:

Integrate research findings into your company’s strategic thinking, including in anticipation of regulatory changes.

Take advantage of knowledge production before other market players.

Take an active part in the education of future stakeholders in the sector, particularly through innovative teaching programmes.

Facilitate recruitment of top candidates in these areas.


Strengthen your image and your employer brand:

Be associated with a project whose output will feature prominently in the public arena, thanks to media coverage and a strong presence on social networks.

Be mentioned on all print and web content and publicity of the Chair’s events.


We thank all the partner companies that support this Chair:


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