Consisting of over 120 researchers with affiliations at numerous institutes across Asia, Europe and the United States, UKNA represents the largest global academic network on Asian cities of its kind. One of its key objectives is the nurturing of contextualised and policy-relevant knowledge on Asian cities. The network seeks to influence policy by contributing insights that put people at the centre of urban governance and development strategies, with “human flourishing in Asian cities” as its vision. 

The emphasis is on immediate problem solving as well as on the identification of long-term, transformative processes that increase the scope for the active engagement of people in the creative production and shaping of the city in Asia.

The UKNA Secretariat is hosted by the International Institute for Asian Studies in Leiden, the Netherlands.

2012-2016: Research exchanges focusing on China and India

In 2012, the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS) was awarded a grant of € 1.25 million under the Marie Curie Actions ‘International Research Staff Exchange Scheme’ (IRSES). This is part of the European Union’s Research Executive Agency’s Seventh Framework Programme. Entitled 'Urban Knowledge Network Asia' (UKNA), the IIAS-led programme consisted of a network of over 100 researchers from 17 partner institutes in Europe, China, India and the United States.

The grant enabled extensive research staff exchanges, focusing on China and India. Thanks to EU research mobility support, 146 scholars and practitioners were able to carry out 206 research exchanges and 590 months worth of secondments at 12 different UKNA partner institutes in Europe, China and India. The number of secondment months even surpassed the target set in the original proposal. These secondments have succeeded in bringing the network partners closer together in collaborative research initiatives, roundtables and seminar activities on a variety of urban topics in East and South Asia, with comparative cases from European cities. Read more.

2017-2020: Southeast Asia Neigborhoods Network (SEANNET)

The success of the UKNA synergy has encouraged the network’s partners to carry on its activities, among others, expanding its orientation to include urban development in Southeast Asia in the framework of the South East Asia Neighborhoods Network (SEANNET) programme (2017-2020). This four-year initiative, funded by the Henry Luce Foundation (New York, USA) is about research, teaching and knowledge dissemination. Its aim is to generate alternative paradigms on cities as well as to empower a community of early career scholars and practitioners working on and in Southeast Asia.

The SEANNET programme is coordinated by IIAS in close collaboration with UKNA partners.

Ongoing UKNA activities

We are very happy to see the number of institutional partners in the UKNA network continue to grow as well as the number of institutions (both academic and non-academic) and scholars who seek to collaborate with UKNA. 
UKNA will continue to organise and support activities that revolve around our objective and vision of “human flourishing” in Asian cities. This includes events as well as publications.


Editors from across the UKNA network have contributed to three edited volumes, containing the work of many researchers who have undertaken secondments through UKNA between 2012 and 2016 as well as that of selected external scholars.

The three volumes are published in the IIAS Asian Cities book series (IIAS website).

Volume I Ideas of the City in Asian Settings (2018)
Volume II Cities in Asia by and for the People (2019)
Volume III Future Challenges of Cities in Asia (2019) 


You may find our upcoming events in the UKNA events calendar.
(We are still working on transferring our past events from the old website to this new UKNA website).

For the events within the framework of the SEANNET programme, we refer you to the events calendar on the SEANNET Blog.