City of Glasgow Wins £24 Million to Build Future Cities Demonstrator

By Gordon Feller, Founder, Meeting of the Minds

Gordon Feller founded Meeting of the Minds in order to harness the power of a global leadership network to build innovation-powered sustainable city futures. Gordon has worked for more than four decades at the intersection of global sustainability, government policy, and private investment focused on emerging technologies.

Jan 25, 2013 | Announcements | 0 comments


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To stimulate the national economy, the United Kingdom government has organized initiatives to promote various industries. These initiatives are called catapults.

One of these catapults was organized by the UK’s Technology Strategy Board to focus on a “future cities technology” theme. This week, Glasgow was declared the winner of a special competition across UK cities — with a grant of £24 million of government funds to create a new Future Cities Demonstrator.

Glasgow beat out a shortlist of competitors from 30 cities, each one offering a program that would enable their cities to develop a catapult which would dramatically improve their performance as a city.

Glasgow’s proposal identified three tenets that make “a city a Smart City as opposed to a city where some smart things happen.”

  1. Smart cities are led from the top by a strong and visionary champion
  2. Smart cities have a stakeholder forum of committed city stakeholders
  3. Smart cities invest in technology infrastructure

The proposal was built on results from a recent public engagement visionary exercise. Future Glasgow 2011-2061: A Fifty Year Vision for the Future was produced following a three-month public engagement program involving approximately 2,700 people and a series of technical inquiries into issues, trends and other factors likely to affect cities in the future. The public consultation provided the opportunity for all citizens, businesses and organizations in Glasgow to express their thoughts on the draft proposals for the future of the city over the next 50 years.

Of special interest was the outcome of a feasibility study conducted by the city of Glasgow. One key recommendation was to “establish a Glasgow City Management System to manage the Future City of Glasgow. This city-wide platform will provide the framework to enable Glasgow and the Glasgow Future Cities Demonstrator Proposal to facilitate delivery of specific system integration demonstrators that Glasgow has a real desire to take forward and that address specific challenges within health, energy, transport and public safety.”

Here is what they said in their proposal:

The Glasgow City Management System will include relevant national and international data to allow benchmarking, learning, research and development to take place on a global scale.

Glasgow will create a technology infrastructure to enable the integration of city systems and data across multiple agencies for the delivery of improved and responsive city services. The management framework established will provide the platform to benefit systems on a city-wide basis and showcase a structure easily replicated by other urban areas.

Further details are available in the official press release:

The city will demonstrate how providing new integrated services across health, transport, energy and public safety can improve the local economy and increase the quality of life of Glasgow’s citizens, and will allow UK businesses to test new solutions that can be exported around the globe.

Announcing the investment during a visit to Glasgow, Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts said: “With more people than ever before living in our cities, they need to be able to provide people with a better quality of life and a thriving economy. This £24 million investment will make Glasgow a city of tomorrow, demonstrating how cities can work more efficiently with a reduced environmental impact.

“We are in a global race and Glasgow can keep the UK at the forefront of innovative technology ideas. From transport systems to energy use and health, this demonstrator will play a key part in the government’s industrial strategy and give real insight into how our cities can be shaped in the future.”

The Glasgow Future Cities Demonstrator aims to address some of the city’s most pressing energy and health needs. For example, developing systems to help tackle fuel poverty and to look at long-standing health issues such as low life expectancy.

The demonstrator will also show how innovative use of technology can improve the City Council’s service provision, while additional potential benefits include improved crime prevention, a reduction in anti-social behaviour and improvements in travel infrastructure.

Councillor Gordon Matheson, Leader of Glasgow City Council, said: “This is a huge boost to Glasgow’s ambitions to build a better future for our city and its people. This investment and the work we will be doing will put us at the forefront of innovative and smart cities not just in the UK but in Europe and beyond. Glasgow is a city which is constantly evolving and regenerating and we are always looking to the future. Winning this money will put us years ahead of other UK cities in terms of integrating our technological systems to make them work for and talk to each other. This will help us to create a more efficient and a more sustainable city which can adapt and move ahead of the technology of the day and make it work for everyone who lives or works in Glasgow.”

Iain Gray, Chief Executive of the Technology Strategy Board, commented: “The global market for innovative approaches to delivering efficient, attractive and resilient cities is growing, and UK companies – supported by our world-class academic and research base – are well-positioned to exploit it. This large-scale demonstrator will show just what can be achieved by innovative use of today’s technology, and will help UK companies develop solutions and technologies for the future, for the benefit of the UK economy.”

The large-scale demonstrator will be made up of a series of projects that will improve transport and mobility across the city. It will develop programmes to promote healthy living, deliver advanced street lighting to address community safety and perception of crime, and enhance building energy efficiency to provide affordable warmth. Value will be created by capturing and opening up data, improving the city’s real-time operations with a city dashboard and a management system that views the city as an integrated whole, and a ‘MyGlasgow’ public window on the city to deliver multiple benefits for the people of Glasgow.

During a visit to Glasgow, the Minister went on to the University of Strathclyde, which will play an important partnership role in the project. Professor Sir Jim McDonald, Principal of the University of Strathclyde, said: “We are delighted to welcome this major investment in Glasgow. The University of Strathclyde’s Technology and Innovation Centre will host the revolutionary City Observatory. This will allow academic and business and industry researchers to analyse more than 200 information feeds about Glasgow – its health, economy, transport, energy use – to map the relationships between them and to understand how a 21st century city operates.”

From a shortlist that also included Bristol, London and Peterborough, Glasgow produced the most powerful proposal. The assessors felt that this was a strong, local authority led project proposal in partnership with their business and academic communities. Glasgow has a number of initiatives upon which they are building giving them strong momentum, in particular the Commonwealth games in 2014 being a key opportunity for them and the UK to demonstrate their skills to the world.

The winning proposal was produced by Glasgow City Council Development & Regeneration Services (DRS) and Land & Environmental Services (LES) in association with the University of Strathclyde, ACCESS and IBI Group.

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