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Emilia Smeds

Doctoral Candidate


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Doctoral project:       Reconfiguring urban mobility systems: Comparing state     
                                     capacity for experimentation in Bristol, Singapore and New York

Emilia is a PhD Candidate in Urban Governance and Innovation at UCL STEaPP. Emilia’s expertise centres on governance for sustainable and socially just urban mobility systems, at the nexus of infrastructure systems, technological innovation, socio-spatial equity and lived experiences of the city.


A focus on the role of the state, and the policy and governance implications of complex problems, is a cross-cutting theme of her work, as is attention to varying governance and cultural contexts, with a long-standing interest in South Asia and the Global East. Her core research interests include:


  • Urban governance of innovation and climate change

  • Policies and funding for urban innovation at national and global levels

  • Planning of new sustainable urban neighbourhoods

  • Transport policy and planning

  • Everyday mobility and social practices


Her PhD research focuses on the capacity of the state to reconfigure urban infrastructure systems through ‘experimentation’, with the sectoral focus being innovations in urban mobility. Drawing on urban studies, transition studies and transport studies, the project explores these issues under the overarching question: why do states differ in their governing capacity to reconfigure urban mobility systems through experimentation?. The comparative approach explores capacity for experimentation in different multi-level governance contexts in Bristol, Singapore and New York, seeking to contribute to theory-building from a broad geographical base encompassing the Global East. In each city, mobility experimentation is traced over two decades using intensive document analysis, as well as in-depth study of five experiments featuring different funding and governance constellations using interview data.


Another strand of her work has focused on socio-spatial equity in relation to mobility systems. With colleagues at the City Leadership Lab, Emilia has been developing research and policy engagement on equitable transport provision in London’s night-time economy. Her MSc dissertation focused on travel to school and mobility of suburban families in the automobile peripheries of London.


Emilia graduated from the MSc Transport and City Planning at the UCL Bartlett School of Planning in 2014. She has practiced as a transport planner for the City Planning Department of Helsinki, Finland, and as an intern at the London Borough of Ealing. Previously, Emilia worked at Imperial College London, assisting with research and community engagement in three East London boroughs for the EUFP7-funded PASTA (Physical Activity through Sustainable Transport Approaches) project on transport & public health. 


In an earlier phase of her career, Emilia completed a BSc in Environmental Policy from the London School of Economics focused on climate change governance and international development. Over the course of several years spent engaging with the South Asian context, Emilia cut her teeth evaluating community development projects in rural Gujarat, analysing off-grid solar policy for the SELCO Foundation in Bangalore, and assisting on research at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements.

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