UK to gain £25bn from smart city industry

The smart cities industry has been valued at more than $400bn (£250bn) globally by 2020, with the UK expected to gain a 10% share, according to a new report.

The report, The Smart City Market: Opportunities for the UK, looks at how ‘smart technologies’ could help address some of the challenges of urbanisation by helping  to optimise resource consumption and improve services through better management of demand and supply.

To ensure that the UK does not miss out on the opportunities offered by smart cities, a new Smart Cities Forum has been established, chaired by Universities and Science Minister David Willetts and Cities Minister Greg Clark, and with representatives from cities, business, and scientists.

Willetts said: “The opportunity to develop new technologies for smart cities in the UK is massive. We want to make sure that we are at the forefront of this digital revolution so we can stay ahead in the global race designing new innovations in the UK and exporting them across the world.

“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,” he added.

Smart cities use intelligent technology to enhance quality of life in urban environments and use the data from these technologies to save money, minimise waste, measure domestic water usage and manage transport routes.

According to the Government, allowing the public access to real time information enables people to make more informed choices, such as planning a journey by checking for available room on trains and buses or even identifying car parking spaces before leaving the house.

Smart Cities Forum member and director of Arup, who wrote the report, Volker Buscher said: “By 2050, the human population will have reached 9 billion people with 75% of the world’s inhabitants living in cities. Smart technologies can help address some of the challenges of rapid urbanisation by improving services and managing their efficiency.

“We already have incredible academics and professionals in the UK so we are well equipped to capitalise on this growing market and help create a better environment for us all,” he added.

The Government has been investing in the sector, which includes around £95m of research into smart cities funded by Research Councils UK, £50m over 5 years earmarked for the new Future Cities Catapult centre being established by the Technology Strategy Board in London, and £33m invested in future city demonstrators earlier this year.

Leigh Stringer

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