Dr Joanne M Leach BSc, MSc, PhD

Joanne M Leach

Department of Civil Engineering
Research Fellow

Contact details

Department of Civil Engineering
School of Engineering
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Joanne’s research interests can be found at the intersection of liveability, sustainability and resilience, with an emphasis upon research integration, transdisciplinary working practices and the science of team science. Her research focuses upon the link between the built environment, infrastructure and wellbeing.

Joanne is Executive Manager of the UK Collaboratorium for Research on Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC), a collaboration of world-leading UK universities dedicated to conducting high-quality research in infrastructure and urban systems, and connecting research with policy and practice. UKCRIC collaborates with industry, government, the third sector, finance, commerce and investment communities to solve the complex problems relating to infrastructure, cities and systems. UKCRIC’s work is underpinned by four Scientific Missions: Infrastructure and urban systems for one planet living, Transformational infrastructure and urban systems for a changing world, Infrastructure and urban systems as drivers of equity, inclusion and social justice, and Innovative ownership, governance and business models for infrastructure and urban systems.

Joanne is a research fellow at the University of Birmingham, where she is the academic lead for the Sustainable, Liveable and Resilient Cities theme at the Centre for Urban Wellbeing, and is part of the Resilient Cities theme of the University’s Institute for Global Innovation (IGI). She is also on the Editorial Board for the academic journal Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers – Engineering Sustainability.

Joanne has a keen interest in developing and translating research outcomes to influence how people think about cities. She was interviewed by The Daily Telegraph for a front-page Saturday supplement article on why cities are still great places to live; for the University of Birmingham’s flagship report Keeping 1.5⁰C Alive, for BBC Radio 4’s Costing the Earth programme Autopia to Utopia? Car-Free Cities; for The Watt Car podcast, exploring the role of electric cars in transportation, infrastructure, urbanisation and human behaviour; for the Journal of Biophilic Design videocast: Why do we need biophilic cities?; and has written for The Conversation about Birmingham’s transport plan.

Joanne Leach talks about 'Making Good Decisions' in relation to the Liveable Cities ESPRC-funded programme.


  • PhD in Civil Engineering, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK, 2020
  • MSc (Distinction) in Design Management, University of Salford, Salford, UK, 2010
  • BSc (Hons) International Business with a minor in mathematics, Trinity University, San Antonio, Texas, USA, 1995


Joanne Leach is a Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham, joining in 2008 as the Project Coordinator for Designing Resilient Cities. Dr Leach currently works as Executive Manager for the UK Collaboratorium for Research on Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC), with an emphasis upon research integration, transdisciplinary working practices and the science of team science. Dr Leach’s research focuses upon urban liveability, resilience and sustainability – with a specific interest in the link between the built environment, infrastructure and wellbeing – and how these aspects can be usefully determined, measured and communicated to decision-makers.

Joanne was involved in the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’s (EPSRC’s) Sustainable Urban Environments (SUE) Programme, working with Prof Rachel Cooper on the 24-hour city (VivaCity2020, £3M) and Professor Chris Rogers on urban futures (Designing Resilient Cities, £3M). She was also part of the Liveable Cities Programme Grant (£6M), which put wellbeing at the heart of transforming how UK cities are engineered and for which she designed a substantive measurement and assessment tool to measure liveable-sustainability. Joanne was also part of the EPSRC-funded SUE Dialogues project, which assessed the efficacy of the EPSRC’s SUE programme. She has also been involved in numerous other urban sustainability-related projects and initiatives, covering issues from crime to soundscapes.

In 2016 and 2017, Joanne split her time between Liveable Cities and the Urban Living Birmingham pilot project (one of five Urban Living Partnership projects), where she focussed upon developing and applying an urban challenges diagnostics methodology that incorporated an evidence mapping approach.

During her time at the University of Birmingham, Joanne has collaborated with over 20 UK Universities and over 200 professional bodies, industry groups, industry research groups, government bodies and international partners. Selected examples include:

  • Was involved in the University of Birmingham Policy Commission on Future Urban Living, chaired by Lord Shipley.
  • Co-authored consultation responses on: Life beyond Covid (commissioned by the UK House of Lords Committee on Covid-19); Improving competitiveness – discussion paper on the Commissions Objectives (commissioned by the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC); the link between infrastructure and the natural environment (commissioned by the NIC); UK infrastructure (commissioned by Lord Armitt); the UK’s Sustainable Development Indicators (commissioned by defra); the UK Lane Rental Scheme (commission by the Department for Transport); the PAS:182:2014 Smart City Concept Model; Ordnance Survey Products and Services Improvement.
  • Contributed to the Institution of Civil Engineer’s RDIEE panel shaping the R&D enabling fund call on engineering the future of cities, Birmingham Food Council’s Food and the City Economy report, Birmingham City Council’s Green Commission’s position paper on energy and resources and their HS2 Landscape and Environment Prospectus, Birmingham City Council’s Smart Commission, the Birmingham Science City Innovation and Low Carbon Working Group, and the London Quality of Life Report
  • Led workshops on planning for resilience with the Birmingham City Council Senior Leaders Group and the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI)
  • Part of Knowledge Transfer Secondments with CH2M HILL and BRE, developing materials on urban sustainability and resilience
  • Co-authored a piece on designing liveable cities for the Centre for Alternative Technology’s 2013 Zero Carbon Britain Report
  • Co-authored Designing Resilient Cities, a Guide to Good Practice (IHS BRE Press)
  • Was lead author on ‘Do sustainability measures constrain urban design creativity?’, winner of the 2015 Reed Mallik prize for the best paper published that year in Proceedings of the ICE: Urban Design and Planning

Before joining the University of Birmingham, Joanne was a research project manager at Lancaster University and the University of Salford, where she obtained her MSc in Design Management. She obtained her PhD in Engineering from the University of Birmingham on ‘Measuring City Performance and Diagnosing City Challenges: A Decision-Making Framework for Policymaking and Urban Design’.


Current research projects

  • UKCRIC Coordination Node
    University of Birmingham
    January 2018 – present

    The UK Collaboratorium for Research on Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC) is, with a (matched) capital investment of £138m from BEIS, creating world-class city observatory, modelling & simulation, and physical laboratory facilities across the UK. The Coordination Node is doing what it says on the tin: providing coordination and leadership of UKCRIC as a whole and its multidisciplinary research programme to ensure that UKCRIC’s vision, promise, and value as an inclusive collaboration are fully realised.

  • Replenish
    University of Birmingham
    March - December 2020

    Replenish is a UKPRP-funded consortium of multi-disciplinary researchers and practitioners exploring how a radically different approach to engineering infrastructure systems and cityscapes can improve people’s health and wellbeing, with particular focus upon non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

    University of Birmingham
    January 2018 – December 2019

    Priming Laboratory EXperiments on infrastructure and Urban Systems (PLEXUS) is a UKCRIC laboratories pump-priming project. This proposal aims to prepare for and use UKCRIC’s laboratory facilities for the ultimate purpose of developing UKCRIC’s research staff capacity & capability, and create a Common Vision, Strategic Research Agenda & Implementation Action Plan for the Laboratories Strand via three expansive yet interlinked critical technical infrastructure challenges. The three challenges are: (1) intense physical interdependency of urban infrastructure systems, with a focus upon integral bridges; (2) harvesting energy from buried infrastructure systems; and, (3) accelerated deterioration of infrastructure materials due to extreme loading.

Previous research projects:

  • Urban Living Birmingham Pilot Project
    University of Birmingham
    June 2016 - November 2017

    A £500,000, 18-month, EPSRC-funded pilot project to identify improvements to urban services by combining top-down urban governance with bottom-up lay and expert knowledge to provide an environment that emphasises and encourages innovations that generate a step change in urban service provision.

    See online for more details.
  • Liveable Cities 
    University of Birmingham
    May 2012 – April 2017 with a no-cost extension to December 2017

    A £6.3 million, 5-year, EPSRC-funded programme grant to identify and test radical engineering solutions that will lead to low carbon, resource secure future cities in which societal well-being is prioritised.   
  • Sustainable Regeneration: from Evidence-based Urban Futures to Implementation
    University of Birmingham
    May 2008 – April 2012

    A £3.1 million, 4-year, EPSRC-funded research project that developed a 5-step method to test the future performance of urban development and regeneration-related ‘sustainability solutions’ – actions taken today in the name of sustainability – in a series of possible future scenarios. The method is supported by a web-based Interactive Tool.
  • Resilience Through Innovation: Critical Local Transport and Utility Infrastructure
    University of Birmingham
    November 2010 – April 2012, part time

    A £200,000, EPSRC-funded scoping project into the research needed to bring about radical changes in thinking and practice for an assured future in the face of multiple threats/risks. 
  • SUE Research Dialogues
    University of Birmingham
    January – June 2010, part time

    A six-month, £80,000, EPSRC-funded research project into developing the Sustainable Urban Environments (SUE) research community as funded via three calls from the EPSRC. 

    See the SUE Research dialogues website for more information.
  • Positive Soundscapes
    The University of Salford
    December 2006 – September 2009, part time

    A 3-year, £1 million, EPSRC-funded research project into what comprises a positive urban soundscape.  
  • VivaCity2020
    University of Salford and Lancaster University
    October 2003 – April 2008

    A £2.9 million, 5-year, EPSRC-funded research project that through innovative and interdisciplinary research developed a toolkit of resources that can be used to navigate urban sustainability issues. The toolkit addresses sustainability issues by encouraging decision-makers to think about sustainability in a user-centred, holistic way, identifying overlaps and trade-offs as the drivers of decision-making.

    See the Vivacity2020 website for more details.
  • Design Against Crime Solution Centre
    University of Salford
    February 2007– April 2008, part time

    A small portfolio of research projects exploring the issues around crime and fear of crime.
  • Inclusive and Sustainable Infrastructure for Tourism and Urban Regeneration (InSITU)
    University of Salford
    November 2005 – January 2007, part time

    A 15-month, £150,000, EPSRC-funded research project that developed and tested new tools and resources designed to deliver a more inclusive and sustainable infrastructure where tourism is being nurtured as a catalyst to regenerate disadvantaged areas that are rich in built heritage.  

    Prior to her work in academia, Joanne spent eight years working within a Manchester advertising and design agency after moving to the UK from America.


View all publications in research portal