SFI Professor Luis Bettencourt has accepted an offer to direct the Mansueto Institute of Urban Innovation at the University of Chicago. Starting July 1, Bettencourt will transition to SFI’s external faculty as he assumes his new role as Pritzker Director of the Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation and Professor of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago.

During his time at SFI, Bettencourt and his collaborators have advanced a multidisciplinary science of cities, combining concepts from complex systems with comparative analysis of urban data from cities and neighborhoods around the world. Their fundamental insights into urban scaling include the idea that urban centers sustain and accelerate general socioeconomic processes that generate innovation, human development, and economic growth in human societies.

“This is a special moment because the world is becoming urban, so the experience and struggles of most people are becoming in many ways more similar. Cities are taking the initiative to address problems of opportunity, quality of life and sustainability, and because of these commonalities and the growing availability of data, there’s the realization that many of these difficult problems can be approached more systematically and more scientifically,” Bettencourt says. “SFI is a great experimental incubator in this multidisciplinary field of urban sciences. As the field grows, one thinks about how it can engage more with education and practice, and the University of Chicago is an ideal place to put all that together. They have a great history and tradition in many of the sciences that frame our understanding of cities.”

“Luis has had a fascinating and diverse career in complex systems,” says SFI President David Krakauer. “The offer to direct the new Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation at the University of Chicago, and Luis’s professorship in ecology and evolution, comes at an opportune time in his career and will provide exactly the kind of amplifying infrastructure for complexity science that Luis has been analyzing and explaining through his own work. It is a tremendous opportunity for Luis, complexity science, and the Santa Fe Institute.”

Bettencourt began collaborating with SFI in 2007 as an external professor based at Los Alamos National Lab. In 2011, he transitioned to a full-time position at SFI where he is Professor of Complex Systems.

Alongside his urban research, Bettencourt has been exploring deep ideas and models related to statistical mechanics of non-equilibrium systems, phase transitions in networks, processes of learning and innovation, disease transmission, and sustainability science

These may seem surprisingly diverse, but a web of connection unifies Bettencourt's research projects, Krakauer notes. A systems approach to these varied fields results in new and powerful insights on multidisciplinary subjects, such as the study of cities and urbanization. This kind of approach is the hallmark of complexity research.

“We wish Luis and Laura and their family the very best of complex contingencies (luck!) in their future careers,” Krakauer says, “and we very much look forward to future collaborations between SFI, the Mansueto Institute, and the University of Chicago.” 

Read the University of Chicago article announcing the appointment (February 23, 2017)