Navigant Research Blog

Glasgow Gets Smart City Cash

Eric Woods — February 1, 2013

Source: Wikimedia CommonsGlasgow has been named the winner of a £24 million ($38 million) prize to fund the U.K.’s Future Cities Demonstrator project.   Its proposal was chosen from 30 city projects submitted for the final round of the competition run by the government-funded Technology Strategy Board.  The level of enthusiasm for the competition reflects a growing interest in smart cities across the United Kingdom.  For example, Bristol has a wide portfolio of smart energy  and digital government projects, and Birmingham has launched its own smart city program.

Glasgow’s proposal is focused on the development of a series of integrated projects spanning health, transport, energy, and public safety.  As with many smart city projects there is a dual goal of improving the quality of life of citizens and boosting the local economy.  The government hopes that the award will help U.K. businesses to develop “integrated urban solutions” that can be exported around the globe.  The proposal for a Glasgow City Management System echoes many of the key themes we have explored around integrated city platforms and the better use of city data.  Glasgow is looking to integrate “urban services and infrastructures (transport, water, energy), using multiple data sources,” and to make that data available through a City Observatory.  It also plans to integrate low carbon energy systems in a holistic view of the city’s “resources, infrastructure, energy demand, and investment.”

In the prize announcement, the Glasgow proposal was singled out as “a strong, local authority-led project proposal in partnership with their business and academic communities.”  Glasgow has a number of existing initiatives on which to build, in particular the Commonwealth Games, which it hosts in 2014.  The Commonwealth Games may not be in the same league as the Olympics, but as Manchester showed in 2002, it is an event that can be the springboard for a range of urban rejuvenation projects, as well as help develop civic pride and a city’s global brand.   It’s also worth noting that Glasgow has developed a comprehensive sustainability strategy.  The Sustainable Glasgow report was developed by the city, academia, and the private sector in 2010 and sets out a comprehensive vision for how Glasgow could reduce its carbon footprint by 30% over 10 years.  One of the interesting elements of both the sustainability strategy and the proposed smart city project is that they accept the serious economic and social challenges facing the city, summed up in the sad fact that Glasgow has the lowest life expectancy of any city in the United Kingdom.

It is important that the Future Cities Demonstrator address the real-world challenges of a city like Glasgow struggling with the challenge of post-industrial decline and a legacy of poor housing stock.  The project, for example, will encompass systems to help tackle fuel poverty and to look at the health issues around low life expectancy.  Other areas to be addressed include the innovative use of technology to improve the City Council’s operations and service provision, and improvements to public safety and the transport system.   Delivering on these ambitious goals would certainly place Glasgow at the forefront of smart city development.  Glasgow’s leaders should also be looking at how Amsterdam and Barcelona, for example, have been able to use smart city initiatives to boost their image across the globe.  Glasgow has the opportunity to become another important hub in the growing smart city movement.

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