News: 17 November 2017How can collaboration help deliver Smart City solutions?

In my last blog, I noted the need for Smart Cities to be focused on evidence based responses. Once we have the data to support change though the next big challenge for delivering Smart City interventions at present is scale.

There are currently lots of new players entering and talking about the Smart Cities agenda, from energy operators to tech companies, transport providers, to healthcare specialists, many of whom are engaging in new ideas that require an integrated strategy approach, but despite the drive and good will of many people across a range of industries with much to offer, in the UK today, we are yet to see anything at scale.

To deliver an autonomous vehicles solution you need to be working at a city-wide scale. To deliver a District Heating Network, like that submitted at Clydebank last month, you need to be supplying a good deal of homes and businesses. Here, a combination of good planning policies, political will and public investment could make a difference. But in particular, we need the cross-boundary collaboration and leadership to make it happen, two key points made by the National Infrastructure Commission in its recent interim report on the National Infrastructure Assessment.  Could initiatives such as the London Plan, grounded in Transport and Energy Strategies, and the ideas discussed at this week’s West of England Economic Growth Forum, where the ambition is to combine strategies in the West through the Joint Transport Plan and Joint Spatial Plan, be the answer? Driving cross-boundary collaboration and potentially the scale Smart City solutions need to be viable?

When we think about Smart Cities in this way, I believe it will becomes possible for the private sector to get involved far earlier and identify where opportunities lie – to overcome the paralysis of scale maybe? If as an industry we can support and drive pilots for tech implementation and data creation, we can proactively feed in to the debate and help to form the policy, much as we might seek to do on the Community Infrastructure Levy or Affordable Housing Policies. With these pilots we can develop further understanding of the real opportunity. Ebbsfleet Garden City was not a viable development opportunity until HS1 connected it to London and Europe. Pilots and technology can change patterns of development, transforming unattractive sites into prime opportunities, and supporting the notion that our urban spaces are dynamic, evolving habitats.

Through public/private sector partnerships, I firmly believe intelligent leadership can help us all ask the critical questions, identify the genuine issues within our cities, run pilots to test those theories and deliver, as a result of the findings, the right interventions.

Maintaining momentum and avoiding the paralysis of a big challenge, is key if we are going to capitalise on the UK’s technological knowledge and get more involved in the worldwide Smart Cities debate.

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Infrastructure, Smart Cities