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Government launches £10m smart cities contest

DCMS teams up with Innovate UK to offer one collaborative R&D project exploring smart cities a prize fund of up to £10m

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has launched a £10m smart city technology competition as part of a £40m internet of things (IoT) investment announced in the March 2015 Budget.

DCMS has brought Innovate UK on board to help run the contest, which will offer up to £10m for a single collaborative research and development project that successfully demonstrates the capabilities of the IoT in a city region.

The winning project will effectively show how the IoT benefits citizens by offering environmental improvements, economic opportunities and service delivery in areas such as transport, healthcare and energy.

The potential applications of smart city technology – and how city governments can create a coherent narrative around them and work best in partnership with the tech industry – have been hotly debated as the IoT begins to move beyond the early stage hype that has surrounded it. A report by engineering consultant Arup suggested the global value of the sector would exceed £255bn per year at the end of the decade.

A number of projects have been looking at smart lighting and sensing to allow cities to gather and share information on foot traffic, air quality and pollution levels, measuring journeys on public transport to help organise services better, and collecting data from traffic and road sensors to ease congestion and reduce emissions.

“The IoT is on the brink of connecting communities and commerce across the UK. The transformative technology will make our lives more connected, allowing us to make more informed decisions based on data and drive the productivity of companies,” said Nick Appleyard, Innovate UK’s deputy director of government partnerships.

“The UK has the opportunity to become a world-leader in this sector, boosting the economy and creating the jobs of tomorrow. Innovate UK has a vital part to play in working with companies and local partnerships to make this happen,” he said.

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Digital economy minister Ed Vaizey added: “This competition will be instrumental in discovering connections between city services and their users and identifying the many more advantages the IoT could offer.”

Entries to the contest – which must be led by a local authority or local enterprise partnership, and should involve a number of businesses – will be required to demonstrated benefits for citizens, the region and the environment, economic benefits for businesses and local authorities, appropriate security and privacy measures, and the ability to work across a variety of sectors.

According to the government, each partner in a project will be eligible to receive funding at a maximum of 30% of their total project costs. This ranges from 100% of the available 30% for local authorities, public sector bodies, academic institutions and third sector organisations to 70% for small businesses, 60% for medium-sized enterprises and 50% for large enterprises.

The maximum grant available is £10m and the project will be expected to run for two years, said the government. Briefing sessions for potential entrants are to be held in London on 21 July 2015, Edinburgh on 23 July 2015, Belfast on 24 July 2015, Cardiff on 28 July 2015 and Birmingham on 29 July 2015.

Read more on Internet of Things (IoT)