The Centre brings together PGIM Real Estate’s industry (Prudential Real Estate Investors) experts with academic expertise from across UCL, including UCL Computer Science and the Bartlett (School of Architecture), UCL’s Faculty of the Built Environment. It will provide a physical space where thought leadership, innovation and education can thrive across emerging digital technologies, architectural materials, construction, and design. It will cover real estate, renewables and digital infrastructure, collectively known as ‘real assets’.
Sustainable technologies that reduce the costs and environmental impacts of building processes and materials are needed to design, build and manage real estate suitable for a net-zero future. To meet this need, a new strategic alliance has been created between UCL and PGIM Real Estate’s recently launched innovation lab, RealAssetX.
The alliance aims to leverage world-class research and build an innovation ecosystem that combines environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance metrics with AI and property technologies to create new, sustainable solutions.
To nurture new talent in these disciplines, the alliance will support a number of PhD scholarships, including several venture PhDs, encouraging research that can be commercialised through spin-out companies. MSc scholarship places are also being funded, including places on UCL MSc programmes in Bio-Integrated Design, AI for Sustainable Development, Financial Risk Management and Computational Finance.
Workshops and events bringing together PGIM Real Estate, UCL staff and students, spin-outs and startups, and other industry players will help build an ecosystem of knowledge and innovation aimed at improving efficiency in regulating and managing buildings. For example, hackathons will bring students together to develop business ideas, design and programme code, write business proposals and pitch ideas to industry experts.
Dr Wei Chen (UCL Computer Science), Interim Director of the new Centre, said: “This ambitious collaboration will drive innovation and impact in the real estate industry, benefitting the UK and other countries. It will co-create value and attract global entrepreneurial talent in sustainable design and technologies for real assets to address pressing challenges.”
Professor Nigel Titchener-Hooker, Dean of UCL’s Faculty of Engineering Sciences, said: “The alliance doesn’t just resonate with one department but holds profound relevance across the entire faculty. From Computer Science to Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering (CEGE), and even the School of Management, we see an integrated vision for sustainability. This collaboration underscores the multidisciplinary approach we are championing at UCL to address the pressing challenges of our times.”
Professor Geraint Rees, UCL Vice-Provost (Research, Innovation & Global Engagement), said: “At UCL, we are at the vanguard of pioneering partnerships that don’t just conform but disrupt. This new centre epitomises this ethos, poised to be a disruptive force in real estate tech through the combination of philanthropy, entrepreneurially focused research and innovation and thought leadership events.”
To help achieve their sustainability goals, large global companies like PGIM Real Estate are striving to embed sustainability best practices throughout their investment, asset management, risk management and talent management processes. PGIM Real Estate applies industry ESG criteria to screen potential investments and to develop its own socially responsible corporate policies.
Alongside UCL, RealAssetX selected three other universities from across the world to leverage new academic research and technologies, in order to drive innovations that will benefit society.
Naqash Tahir, Executive Director, CIO Office at PGIM Real Estate, said: “Developing long-term transformational partnerships between universities and RealAssetX is vital to creating new, sustainable solutions to advance innovation in the industry.”