$10 million alumni commitment supports prosperous cities of the future

Frank Cairo, Vivek Goel and Troy van Haastrecht standing on stage at Federation
Frank Cairo, Vivek Goel and Troy van Haastrecht standing on stage at Federation Hall during the launch event
Impact Stories

The Future Cities Institute founded by CAIVAN will bring together leading minds from across sectors to solve the most challenging and urgent issues facing global cities.

For Frank Cairo (BES ’05), investing in new approaches to planning and building cities isn’t a choice - it’s a necessity.

"We’re facing complex challenges. From the rising cost of housing to aging infrastructure and environmental impact. We need new thinking, across a variety of disciplines to tackle these problems through innovation and the scientific method."

While the need for expertise and applied tools has never been higher, Frank, along with Troy van Haastrecht (BASc ’93) - co-founders and chief executive officers of The Caivan Group - believe the approach to building future cities must be thoughtful, purposeful and data-driven.

It’s why they’re investing $10 million to launch the Future Cities Institute founded by CAIVAN (FCI) at the University of Waterloo. It’s the first interdisciplinary, donor-funded organization of its kind at the University.

"The number and magnitude of challenges humanity will be confronted with in the decades ahead will test our resolve and our ability to effectively collaborate," Frank says. "FCI will foster thought-provoking debate, challenge orthodoxy and produce research and academic programming that allows city builders to make evidence-based decisions and talent that we need. The pursuit of science and truth is the unifying element in this age of growing dogma."

As UWaterloo alumni, Frank and Troy know their values align with the University, challenging traditional academic boundaries. This prompted them to make their initial donation of $1 million to establish the Future Cities Initiative in 2022.

"The University of Waterloo is renowned globally for the quality of its graduates, its innovation and cutting-edge research. It’s this track record that FCI will leverage to build a healthy, resilient and prosperous future for all," Troy says. "Our cities’ problems are complex, but FCI’s success metric is simple: devising solutions that will make a difference in the world."

Housed within the Faculty of Environment, FCI will bring Waterloo’s expertise in applied science and engineering and aptitude for entrepreneurial problem-solving to the field of city building.

"I’m excited to see our researchers joining forces with industry experts like Caivan to combine their considerable knowledge and apply it to solving the complex challenges cities of the future will face," says Vivek Goel, University of Waterloo President and Vice-Chancellor.

The partnership will create an interdisciplinary network of academic, government, industry and grassroots organizations to mobilize a large body of quantitative research and train a new generation of leaders. Collecting and harnessing data, building novel optimization tools and connecting urban leaders with a new and democratized toolkit are central to the institute’s focus. Advances in artificial intelligence and generative design will be leveraged to improve built form and land-use decision making.

"Future leaders in city building will need to possess an interdisciplinary understanding and awareness," Frank says. "This is at the core of FCI which crosses faculty lines and brings great minds from a variety of fields of study to build, or at minimum, facilitate cities that are resilient, adaptive and inclusive."
Jennifer Ferguson