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Innovate UK and UKTI lead Asean smart city mission

Smart city technology developers are heading to Malaysia and Singapore on a government-led trade mission

Innovate UK and UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) are preparing to lead a smart city trade mission to Malaysia and Singapore. This is to help UK smart city specialists forge relationships in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) region and explore partnership and export opportunities.

This mission follows prime minister David Cameron’s 2015 visit to the region. It forms part of the government’s Exporting is Great campaign, which hopes to inspire and support 100,000 UK exporters over the next four years, and has identified smart city technology as a key sector to exploit.

Speaking to Computer Weekly before departing for Singapore, Niraj Saraf, lead technologist for Urban Living at Innovate UK, said the technology strategy board was particularly focused on challenges around congestion, growing urban populations and the environmental impact of cities.

Saraf said to address these challenges, city governments needed to move away from siloed, transactional relationships with their citizens to a more integrated outlook – hence the establishment of the Urban Living programme.

“We have to bring together stakeholders, city governments, IT businesses and academia to address these challenges in new ways,” he said. “This will not happen spontaneously.”

Time to expand

Saraf said that, having built up a thriving startup ecosystem around smart city tech in the UK, the time was right to start thinking about helping such companies expand on a global basis.

“We now have confidence that smart city technology has been demonstrated in use in the UK,” said Saraf. “We have a critical mass – it’s a really ripe market.”

Among the companies heading to Asean are Multipass, a provider of seamless ticketing sytems, which hopes to help people navigate the complicated range of ticket options on the UK rail network; and Bronze Software Labs, which builds mobile and wearable apps for smart city projects.

The companies also include Block Dox, which is trialling a system that allows building managers to track humans around a building to better plan what services to provide; and Ordnance Survey, which is on an internal mission to use its vast repository of spatial data to enable geolocation features in smart city applications.

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The mission will lever an existing relationship with the Singaporean government, which is currently attempting to create the world’s first smart nation project. Here, Saraf identified a strong regulatory base and fewer layers of bureaucracy.

Malaysia, meanwhile, is a fast-urbanising society and is seeing a number of challenges as a result of this, said Saraf.

“This is an ideal opportunity to get in there and showcase how our technological systems can address these challenges,” he said.

Part of the mission’s overall objective will also be to help open doors for smaller tech companies that may have lacked the ability or the confidence to expand overseas, and create partnership opportunities for them.

Computer Weekly’s Zafar Anjum will be reporting from Malaysia and Singapore over the course of the mission. xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xx xx xxx xx xx

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