May 4 (Bloomberg) -- If projections hold, 1.4 billion people will live in vast mega-city slums by 2020. Last night, in the dramatic atrium of the Hearst Building in New York, Deutsche Bank Chief Executive Josef Ackermann announced the creation of the annual $100,000 Urban Age Award, given to programs that aggressively and imaginatively try to improve city life.

The bank ``intends to honor the acceptance of shared responsibilities, especially to bring about innovation at the urban level,'' Ackermann said in a statement.

By focusing on large cities, the international prize recognizes that the increasing size and economic complexity of global hubs such as London, New York and Tokyo pose unprecedented challenges, as do the vast, slum-ringed cities of Cairo, Mumbai and Sao Paolo.

The idea for the award came about through several Urban Age conferences, convened jointly by the bank's Alfred Herrhausen Society (its ``International Forum'') and the Cities Program of the London School of Economics and Political Science.

In New York, London, Shanghai, Mexico City, Johannesburg, and Berlin, the conferences brought together architects, planners, politicians and experts in governance, management, immigration and poverty ``to create worldwide networks of advocates who can learn from each other,'' explained Wolfgang Nowak, director of the Deutsche Bank Foundation, in an interview.

More than half the world's population is now urban, and a rapidly growing number reside in lawless, disease-ridden slums. Sixty percent of Mexico City's housing, for example, is built in what are euphemistically called ``informal'' communities that lack sanitation, water and electricity.

Climate Disruption

Global climate change, with its potential to further disrupt urban economies, ``adds only more dramatic urgency to finding solutions,'' said Nowak.

An international jury consisting of Anthony Williams, former mayor of Washington; Enrique Norten, of Mexico's Ten Arquitectos; and urbanist Ricky Burdett, of the London School of Economics, will work with architect Rahul Mehrotra and author Suketu Mehta to choose an award recipient in Mumbai. The winner will be announced in November at the next Urban Age conference in that city.