Urban dynamics and policy

“The ballet of the good city sidewalk never repeats itself from place to place, and in any one place is always replete with new improvisations.”

Jane Jacobs


May 29th 2018
Just out in Journal of Urban Economics: Why do industries coagglomerate? How Marshallian externalities differ by industry and have evolved over time.

April 14th 2018
New course coming in 2019: Mathematics and Data Science for Development. More details coming soon. 

February 7th 2018                                                                                               
Just back from the inaugural meeting of PEAK Urban in South Africa with PI Michael KeithSue ParnellAromar ReviJuan C. DuqueTim Schwanen and Kazem Rahimi.

More …


About me

Originally from Dublin, I am currently a Senior Research Fellow at the Mathematical Institute at the University of Oxford. My research focuses on economic development and the emergence of complexity for urban systems.

I was previously a Fulbright Scholar and Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Center for International Development at the Harvard Kennedy School following my PhD (mathematics) at Imperial College. I am also founder and Editor in Chief of Angle – a journal based at Imperial College focusing on the intersection of policy, politics and science – since 2009. More …

PEAK Urban

PEAK Urban is a 4 year international multidisciplinary programme funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund (RCUK GCRF) involving researchers at the University of Oxford, Peking University, University of Cape Town, the Indian Institute for Human Settlements, and EAFIT University (Colombia).

The team from the Oxford Mathematical Institute will focus on studying cities as complex social, spatial and economic systems, with particular themes including knowledge diffusion, skills and agglomeration economies, industrial complexity and urban form. We will use a broad range of analytical tools from network science to machine learning. 

The Bo-Kaap or Malay Quarter in Cape Town, a former township that has been rejuvenated due to government support.


My research lies at the intersection of a number of fields including urban systems, economic complexity and economic geography, development, and network science. 



Urban density and agglomeration


Mapping opportunity and innovation


The study of complex systems


PhD students

  • Sanna Ojanpera [online labour and development]
  • Nils Rochowicz [technological progress]
  • Francesca Froy [UCL, urban agglomeration]

MSc Students

  • Francois Hulot [urban agglomeration]
  • Giuseppi Ughi [production networks]
  • Jin Cui [trade networks]
  • Steffan Ridderbusch [labour networks]

Undergraduate Students

  • Linxuan Zhang [machine learning for agricultural development]
  • Kangning Zhang [machine learning for agricultural development]
  • Chengcheng Li [machine learning for agricultural development]
  • Yuejia Pan [urban agglomeration modelling]
  • Mu He [urban agglomeration modelling]
  • Qianxue Li [financial data modelling]
  • Haoting Zhang [green diversification paths]
  • Davide Leonessi [green diversification paths]



Urban systems, and economic complexity, geography and development 

Diodato D, Neffke F & O’Clery N (2018) Why do industries coagglomerate? How Marshallian externalities differ by industry and have evolved over time. Journal of Urban Economics 106 (1-26).

O’Clery N, Yildirim M & Hausmann R (2016) Productive Ecosystems and the Arrow of Development. ArXiv:1807.03374.

O’Clery N, Gomez A & Lora E (2016) The Path to Labour Formality: Urban Agglomeration and the Emergence of Complex Industries. Center for International Development Working Paper.

O’Clery N & Lora E (2016) City size, distance and formal employment creation. Development Bank of Latin America (CAF) Working Paper.

O’Clery N (2015) A Tale of Two Clusters: The Evolution of Ireland’s Economic Complexity since 1995. Journal of the Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland, One Hundred and Sixty-Eight Session


O’Clery N, Yuan Y, Stan G-B, Barahona M (2017) Fast Decentralised Sensing and Node Ranking for Complex Systems. Forthcoming.

Schaub M, O’Clery N, Billeh Y, Delvenne J-C, Lambiotte R & Barahona M (2016) Graph partitions and cluster synchronization in networks of oscillators. Chaos 2016;26 (9).

O’Clery N, Yuan Y, Stan G-B & Barahona M (2013) Observability and coarse graining of consensus dynamics through the external equitable partition. Physical Review E. 2013;88 (4).

O’Clery N (2013) Node Dynamics on Graphs Dynamical Heterogeneity in Consensus, Synchronisation and Final Value Approximation for Complex Networks. PhD Thesis, Imperial College London. 



Tackling global challenges, one issue at a time. From energy and the environment to economics, development and global health, Angle focuses on the intersection of science, policy and politics in an evolving and complex world.

Fragile states – Caitlin Werrell & Francesco Femia
Anthropocene – Owen Gaffney
Coping with air pollution – Marguerite Nyhan
Mapping warfare – Roudabeh Kishi & Ciara Aucoin & Clionadh Raleigh