The Biopolis

Biology & Social Innovation



— Learn more below —

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A collaboration between Harvard, the Center for Research and Interdisciplinarity (CRI), SciencesPo, and the City of Paris, The Biopolis coaches students to develop innovative solutions to urban problems, inspired by the notion of the city as an organism.

Applications for our summer 2018 program are now closed. Please see the Harvard Summer School website for more information on next year's program!



The seventeen sustainable development goals (SDGs) defined by the United Nations are an important framework for responding to the world's most pressing challenges. In this program, we focus particularly on SDGs 3, 4, and 11: public health, quality education, and sustainable cities.

the city as laboratory



Through lectures, exploratory observation and data gathering, and local consultations, students gain on-the-ground knowledge about the key challenges facing the city of Paris.

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Building on these experiences, student teams develop innovative solutions to problems ranging from air pollution to civic engagement to affordable housing.

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Student teams test the feasibility of their ideas through meetings with city officials and other key stakeholders. At the end of the program, they pitch their proposals in a film festival at City Hall!

the city as an organism



The idea of collective contributions to an improved living environment shares many features with the evolution of populations, be they bacteria in a colony, cells in a tissue, or animals in an ecosystem. Inspired by the notion of the city as a living system, students develop biological metaphors for their projects, learning how fields such as cell biology, human physiology, and ecology can express ideas about societal change in fresh and powerful ways.

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What can neural plasticity teach us about activating the collective memory of a city?

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What can the intestinal microbiome teach us about waterfront access in urban settings?

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What can veins and capillaries teach us about urban mobility?