Local authorities vie for £24m grant for cities of tomorrow

Government is asking UK cities and urban areas to demonstrate how they could become the city of tomorrow with a £24m grant at stake

UK cities and urban areas are being asked by the government to demonstrate how they could become the city of tomorrow in using technology to integrate infrastructure.

The future cities demonstrator project will see 20 local governments and authorities initially bid for a £50,000 grant from the government’s Technology Strategy Board.

The grant is to be used to carry out a feasibility study for a potential future city, which will then enter a competition where one proposal will receive £24m towards implementing the plans.

The plans will use technology to overcome challenges such as changes in population and demographics, congestion, waste and pressure on resources and services, said universities and science minister David Willetts. 

“This underlines the need for our future cities to have high-quality, integrated infrastructure to meet these challenges,” said Willetts.

The project aims to demonstrate the additional value created by integrating a city’s systems. 

The project will enable businesses to test in practice systems for connecting and integrating individual city systems. 

It is intended to allow cities to explore new approaches to supporting the local economy and quality of life, while reducing the environmental footprint and increasing resilience to environmental change.

The competition is for cities or urban areas with at least 125,000 residents. 

The Technology Strategy Board is also establishing the Future Cities Catapult innovation centre to help UK businesses create products and services to help cities meet future demands.  

Analyst firm Ovum warns cities of the future could be inhibited by the slow rise of IT-based modernisation.

Ovum said: “The market’s potential is being inhibited by immature standards, rigid and siloed infrastructures, limited budgets and fragmented and politicised decision-making.

“While modernisation is crucial for cities to deal with pressing issues such as population growth, climate change, and resource limitations, urban solutions may not emerge quickly enough to keep pace.”

“Vendors are rushing to offer sophisticated solutions to address everything from traffic patterns to crime, public health, and weather. However, these solutions will have to be informed by comprehensive, accurate and timely data, in amounts so massive that ICT will be essential.”

“ICT cannot solve these problems by itself – plenty of concrete, asphalt, pipe and wire will also be required – but effective solutions must have ICT at their core,” explained Warren Wilson, lead energy & sustainability IT analyst at Ovum.

Read more on Mobile networks