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Fostering public and private sector innovation

Innovate UK will be soon be working on a new initiative designed to bring dynamic SMEs into the orbit of public authorities in order to catalyse innovative approaches in the advanced urban services sector. Juliana O'Rourke spoke with David Leipziger, Innovation Lead for Cities & Mobility, Innovate UK

16 October 2019
One of the most significant ways in which Innovate UK has supported the public sector to date was the Future City Demonstrator project.  The winning authority, Glasgow, secured an extra £24m to demonstrate how technology can make life in the city smarter, safer and more sustainable.
One of the most significant ways in which Innovate UK has supported the public sector to date was the Future City Demonstrator project. The winning authority, Glasgow, secured an extra £24m to demonstrate how technology can make life in the city smarter, safer and more sustainable.

 

Since 2014, Innovate UK has invested around £1.3 billion to help businesses across the country to innovate, with match funding from industry taking the total value of projects above £4.3 billion. It has helped 8,500 organisations create around 70,000 jobs – investing £190m in more tha 600 projects in 2018 – and added an estimated £18 billion of value to the UK economy. In April 2018, Innovate UK became part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the national funding agency investing in science and research in the UK. Operating across the whole of the UK with a combined budget of more than £6 billion, UKRI brings together seven Research Councils, Innovate UK and Research England.

David Leipziger, Innovation Lead for Cities & Mobility, Innovate UK, will be speaking at Smarter Tomorrow

Innovate UK's framework is guided by the Industrial Strategy, which is working towards four Grand Challenges:  the future of mobility, AI and data, healthy ageing and clean growth and infrastructure, says David Leipziger, Innovation Lead for Cities & Mobility, Innovate UK. For me, the critical role we play is helping organisations to test new ideas that could transform the UK economy. We promote the most the most radical, potentially disruptive ideas, and support companies that are not able to source investment because their ideas remain in the early stages of development.  We de-risk the development of the new ideas that could be really game-changing in their respective sectors. I personally see Innovate UK as an enabler for UK institutions.' 

Intersection of the public and private sectors

But it's not all about business, says Leipziger. 'I come from an urban planning background, so I have a strong understanding of the responsibilities and roles of local government. Government is critical in ensuring success whenever new technologies come to the fore, they are distributed, shared and leveraged equitably. They're really important in bringing new business models and frameworks to fruition.'

Innovate UK will be soon be working on a new initiative designed to bring dynamic SMEs into the orbit of public authorities, says Leipziger, in order to catalyse innovative approaches in the advanced urban services sector and to help to strengthen Innovate UK's public-facing role. 'Launching on the back of our International Missions scheme, where we've been taking companies to cities in foreign markets to understand what's happening there, and to see if they can grow. Domestic Missions will interact with local authorities and public agencies to understand what the real challenges are.'

At a previous Smarter Travel LIVE event, Stan Boland, CEO of leading AI innovator five AI, stated that best thing that government and local government can do in terms of innovation is 'keep out'. Naturally, Leipziger 'totally disagrees'. 'I think one of the biggest issues is that there are very particular motivations and constraints that are unique to the public sector and private sector alike that are not so well understood. There needs to be better mutual understanding that cities have to be accountable to citizens and show legitimate transparency, and that companies have to be responsible to their owners and shareholders. One of the things that that we do is to facilitate better relationships between public and private sector, through entities like the Catapults, for example. And I see that  Innovate UK approach is shifting to acknowledge the critical role of local government.' 

Future Cities Demonstrators

One of the most significant ways in which Innovate UK has supported the public sector to date, says Leipziger, was the Future City Demonstrator project. Via competitive grants totalling £34.5 million, Innovate UK challenged 30 cities to show how they could work with local businesses and partners to improve urban living and working using new technologies.

Each city was awarded £50,000 to investigate its ideas and to come up with a proposal for a large-scale city demonstrator – showing how different systems in a city could be integrated and how new technologies could be used to deal with challenges in areas such as transport, housing, health, energy and pollution. 

The winning authority, Glasgow, secured an extra £24m to demonstrate how technology can make life in the city smarter, safer and more sustainable. It focused on four key areas: active travel (cycling and walking), energy, social transport and public safety. Three other cities, Bristol, London and Peterborough, also won £3m each to progress their work. Following the Glasgow project, a report drew together evidence collected by Glasgow City Council (GCC) and independent research conducted by consultancy mruk to evaluate the Future City Glasgow programme. 

There were three key elements: The Glasgow Operations Centre (GOC), sharing public-realm CCTV systems, Traffic Management Services, and emergency planning and response functions for the city; The Open Glasgow project, which aimed to integrate a range of city systems and data to deliver improved services and facilitate wider engagement with citizens. Open Glasgow hosted a ‘big data’ store and platform to handle real-time information, analytics and models, city dashboards to present live city data, enhance the existing MyGlasgow app and create a City Observatory. The third element was four 'Demonstrators' intended to demonstrate tangible, real-time benefits to people in Glasgow. These covered Energy Efficiency, Integrated Social Transport, Intelligent Street Lighting and Active Travel. 

The project’s main legacies were the leading role that it has allowed Glasgow to take in the deployment of ‘smart’, digital technologies, the choice of systems that can be  easily expanded and upgraded in the future, and the way in which it brought disparate organisations from across the city together. 

In terms of legacy, the Council’s Strategic Plan now makes reference to the pivotal role that digital and data will play in the Council’s transformation. It states that open-data and big-data analytics analytics will support and inform how the Council operates internally and its role within the city. 

The Demonstrators resulted in improved service delivery and associated cost savings, for example by optimising the use of GCC’s fleet of buses and its related record-keeping, or by reducing energy use in council buildings. 

 
 
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Bradford Council
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