Addressing India’s urban planning challenges: the Project Urban Living Lab

The project works on innovative approaches and solutions for sustainable cities in collaboration with the city governments, residents, policymakers, public bodies, businesses, and academia.

With funding from the Danish Government, we have set up India’s  first urban living lab, the  Project Urban Living Lab (PULL) in Panaji, Goa along with our partners Tandem Research and The Energy and Resources Institute.  It is set up under a Memorandum of Understanding between the Royal Danish Embassy in India and Imagine Panaji Smart City Development Limited , drawing on an earlier MoU on Sustainable and Smart Urban Development signed between the Governments of Denmark and India in April 2018. The PULL is by the Royal Danish Embassy.


India is urbanising rapidly.  By 2030, 590 million residents will live in India’s cities.  Urban schemes in India, such as the Smart Cities Mission, the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation invest in much needed city infrastructure and services.  However, often these investments are made without the consultation of city residents, city needs, contextual factors and global best practices in the urban sector.  PULL plays an important role in identifying and testing new approaches and solutions for sustainable cities, in collaboration with residents, policymakers, public bodies, businesses and academia.

Our approach

Our approach is guided by the defining features of living labs across the world which are:

  • Geographical embeddedness: Located in Panaji, the project works on local issues, documenting its processes, methodologies and learnings for other city contexts.
  • Working with multiple stakeholders: it brings together policy makers, city governments and residents to collaboratively, innovatively and iteratively address urban challenges such as traffic congestion, flooding, and the need for more green cover.  
  • Testing urban policies in real-life contexts: PULL functions as a ‘sandbox’, facilitating pilots of innovative urban solutions including nature-based solutions, spatial safety audits and flood management solutions.  The project has used existing campaigns such as India Cycles 4 Change to galvanise action around making Panaji a pedestrian and cycling friendly city.  
  • Focus on learning, iteration and adaptation: By documenting processes and reflecting on methodologies, the project will ensure that other cities have learning that can help them adopt urban living labs.


One of the outcomes of the project is to work with a wide variety of stakeholders and create a space to design and experiment with urban innovations.   Another outcome is to contribute to the smooth implementation of urban planning and projects. While each Smart City in India implements its own infrastructure and area-based projects, lessons and challenges from the PULL in Panaji will hope to inform the implementation of the Smart City Mission and urban development in the country.

Photo credit: Project Urban Living Lab

Area of expertise