BIS launches Smart Cities Forum to capitalise on the growing industry

Smart cities

BIS launches Smart Cities Forum to capitalise on the growing industry

Caroline Baldwin

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has launched an initiative to help the UK develop smart cities.

The Smart Cities Forum will ensure that the UK does not miss out on smart city opportunities as the market grows. It will be chaired by universities and science minister David Willetts and cities minister Greg Clark, and with representatives from cities, business and scientists.


Smart cities use technologies such as sensors and networks to use city data to enhance citizens’ daily lives. These innovative technologies allow cities to save money, minimise waste, manage transport and measure domestic water use.

A report on the global market opportunities and UK capabilities for future smart cities highlights how technology could change lives and provide economic benefits. The smart cities industry will be worth more than $400bn globally by 2020, and the UK is expected to gain a 10% share.

The report by Arup predicts that 25% of the services which make up the smart cities market could include design, research, finance and engineering services – all of which it believes the UK is well positioned to provide.

Through our information economy strategy, we will support cities to improve energy efficiency, reduce carbon emissions and save money

David Willetts, universities and science minister

“With around 80% of the UK’s population living in cities, we need to ensure that they are fit for purpose in the digital age. Through our information economy strategy, we will support cities to improve energy efficiency, reduce carbon emissions and save money,” said Willetts.

As an example, the report states the global market for digital transport infrastructures is estimated to be worth $4.5bn by 2018, which could make way for a wider market of $100bn by 2018 for the provision of systems such as physical and digital parking infrastructure, smart ticketing, traffic management, road design and big data analytics.

The report also makes the distinction between smart cities and future cities. It states that future city solutions are innovative physical projects which are often, but not exclusively, associated with low-carbon economies. Meanwhile, smart city solutions can combine physical and digital infrastructures, or can be based on a digital infrastructure alone.

Opportunities for business

If the UK were to widely adopt smart solutions, the report states this would improve the chances of British companies opening up the global market in the UK, and in turn providing opportunities to export to other countries.

The report also highlights that to capitalise on this opportunity, the government must remove any barriers to innovation and facilitate collaboration between verticals.

The government’s investment in smart cities includes £95m of research into smart cities funded by Research Councils UK, while £50m over five years will be spent on a Future Cities Catapult centre being established by the Technology Strategy Board in London. £33m was invested in future city demonstrators earlier this year.

The government is also funding intelligent transport systems, smart ticketing, telecare and telehealth in the NHS and the introduction of smart meters by 2020. 

While the Future Cities Catapult and Demonstrator programme has got local authorities thinking about the potential of technology to address city challenges, a lack of funding and leadership remains a barrier to adoption, the report states.  

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