Innovate UK’s Future Cities Challenge

The challenge champions innovation, improvement and sustainability

Urban living in the United Kingdom presents opportunities, rewards and challenges in equal measures. As the population continues to explode at record pace, intense pressure is being placed on infrastructure which in many regions is already at breaking point.

Local and national government offices alike are continually intensifying efforts to make all available resources stretch as far as possible for the greater good. But rather than working only with what we have, perhaps the key to better urban living lies in innovation.

Late last year, Innovate UK kick-started a project designed to encourage a selection of UK cities to target long-term improvement. Having acknowledged the fact that urban living is becoming more of a challenge than ever before, the primary goal was to nurture creative innovation. A number of specific urban problems were to be focused on, including pollution, energy, health, housing and transport.

A well developed transit network is vital to a city with a growing population.

Innovate UK is a non-profit organisation, created by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

A total of 30 leading UK cities were selected for the project, which saw each being provided with a grant of £50,000 and the challenge to deliver strong, workable ideas for social improvement. Each of the cities was competing for a further £24 million in funding, which would be provided to the city able to not only draft the most promising proposal, but also comprehensively prove its feasibility.

When the time came to consider the proposals, the City of Glasgow was selected as the winner and received the promised £24 million in additional funding. Several other cities including London. Peterborough and Bristol were singled out for their outstanding proposals – each being provided with an additional £3 million in funding to further their efforts. The challenge from Innovate UK brought about the commencement of dozens of exciting projects spanning the length and breadth of Britain, focusing on a variety of important urban living issues and community matters.

Glasgow’s proposal included a strategy to improve pedestrian and cyclist systems.

Glasgow’s Winning Proposal

The initiatives proposed and since put into action by the City of Glasgow provide a perfect illustration of what exactly Innovate UK was looking for. A selection of the initiatives presented by the Glasgow team included:

  • The Data Hub – The city’s first collated and centralised data hub used for gathering and storing key urban data, including air pollution levels, traffic flows and health statistics.
  • Active Travel – A system designed to use data and strategic intelligence to improve transport efficiency for cyclists and pedestrians.
  • Energy – Better monitoring and analysis of energy use by installing ‘smart meters’ across the city.
  • Intelligent Street Lighting – A fresh take on the lighting of public areas with the goal of both reducing energy consumption and boosting public safety.

It was a similar story with many of the initiatives proposed by other cities taking part in the project – tapping into the power and potential of both technology and key data for urban improvement. The challenge has in every respect demonstrated that the potential for improvement through innovation is there – it’s simply a case of encouraging its exploration and implementation.

 

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