The UK government has announced an investment by the Technology Strategy Board (TSB - the UK’s ‘innovation agency’) in a new ‘Catapult’ centre to help make cities smarter and more environmentally-friendly. The Catapult will receive up to £50m over five years from the TSB, but with additional private sector input the funding is expected to reach around £150m.
Catapults are part of a range of programmes to stimulate innovation in the UK. Through businesses and researchers working together, the aim is to bring new products and services more quickly to market. Business Secretary Vince Cable announced last week that the Future Cities Catapult centre will be located in London, while a Future Cities demonstrator will be hosted in Glasgow.
The Future Cities Catapult will bring together UK business and SMEs, (city) governments and academia to look at ways in which various services, such as health, transport, energy and public safety, can be integrated to both boost the economy and benefit citizens.
The Catapult will be chaired by Sir David King, best known for his role as Chief Scientific Advisor to the government from 2000 to 2007 where, among other things, he raised public awareness of climate change. He was also involved in setting up the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at Oxford University to address global environmental challenges.
Review: The main objective of this focus on smart cities is to generate business for UK Ltd. Smart city developments tend to rely on technology to make metropolitan areas much more efficient and enhance life for citizens. It’s a huge business opportunity (estimated at £200bn a year globally by 2030) as many ICT companies have realised - just search for smart cities in this blog to read more.
The environmental savings are primarily a spin-off of greater efficiency, e.g. in better public and private transport management, more energy-efficient buildings, smart grids, etc. I suspect that energy and environmental issues will increasingly come to the fore in the future, though.
In the case of this UK initiative it’s clear that the environmental aspect certainly won’t be forgotten. Sir David King brings with him a history of involvement in climate change issues.