'Smart cities' evidence check

The Science and Technology Committee invited views on the strength of the evidence in relation to smart cities.

The forum is now closed and the Committee is considering next steps.

5 Responses to Send a comment to the 'Evidence check' web forum

Michele Acuto, UCL City Leadership Initiative says:
May 10, 2016 at 12:07 AM
Whilst comprehensive in terms of flagship UK (government) initiatives, the evidence check might be partly limited by its scope: “UK actions” might not be enough to adequately capture a fast moving and wide reaching landscape such as that of ‘smart’ cities. This is for three interrelated reasons.

First, as my colleagues below point out, the landscape of research relating to smart innovation, digital infrastructure and ICT solutions in cities has evolved well beyond initial foci on the ever-present ‘smart city’ phrase. As Batty points out, there is a well established a evolving ‘science of cities’ in academia that both in the UK as much as abroad offers many leading centers of research whose impact shapes directly the UK context. These range from both more established Global North contexts, like MIT Senseable City lab, to joint ventures like ETH Zurich’s Future Cities Lab, but also experimentation in the Global South (e.g. University of Sao Paulo) and several other developing countries. In short it is not enough to capture the UK reality to appreciate the possibilities and impact (policy, economic, and cultural) of smart cities.

Second, as the note by Cosgrave on the UCL City Leadership Initiative (CLI) collaboration with UN-Habitat Safer Cities points at, the landscape of the evidence, policy and innovation, not just of academic research, needs to be appreciated internationally.

For further reference on the project see:!blank-1/yqyv3

As such better international baselines become crucial because, as in the report evidenced below, integrated solutions and smart innovations are now clearly embedded in the connections among cities (e.g. city networks like C40 or the UN GNSC) as well as multilateral processes. UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and New Urban Agenda (NUA, or ‘Habitat3’) are having a core role in coalescing research around smart cities as well as developing common frames for assessment, collaboration and local-national engagements. These, in particular in 2016, are now critical in shaping the policy orientation of cities, not least in the UK, and remain conspicuously absent, or at best sidelined, from the evidence check and much of the discussions on UK national policy-making.

Lastly, and third, we must account for internationalization well beyond the limiting “implementation” view presented here: collaborations on smart city research and smart city policymaking are now flourishing between UK institutions and many of the international counterparts described above, and these connections go well beyond the one-directional representation here. For instance, CLI is now funded by FCO to support the Chilean Government in developing a national strategy for “smart city leadership” looking at issues of smart indicators, urban governance and city leadership.

For further reference on the program see:!3s-cities/c13sv

These are not models that simply deploy UK innovation abroad, but rather aim at two way communications where research and policy innovation can travel more equitably and at the same time link with the broader landscape of multilateral policymaking and city networking discussed above.
Tim Dixon says:
May 09, 2016 at 12:02 PM
We are currently conducting research funded by RICS Research Trust into the role of big data and open data on the built environment in the context of smart cities. Focusing on property-related 'big data', the research is examining the drivers and barriers for big data platforms at city level in the UK. The research will also examine key trends in the development and opening up of big data in cities, and how this creates opportunities for client advice, and the potential for RICS members to use big data creatively and innovatively to add value to their professional work. The research is combining a survey of leading UK smart cities and interviews/workshops, and will also examine major city case studies in the UK (Bristol and Milton Keynes) , Netherlands (Amsterdam) and Taiwan (Taipei). A key output is expected to be a generic framework for a RICS 'big data' directory for the built environment in cities (categorised by property type/land use).

The work builds on other School of the Built Environment projects, including Reading 2050 ( and the wider programme of Smart and Sustainable Cities research at University of Reading (

The final report will be produced later this year. A key aim of the research is to better understand how cities can engage with the built environment sector (inclduing both providers and users of data) and how 'data exchanges' can be successfully developed in cities to overcome barriers.
Ellie Cosgrave says:
May 06, 2016 at 02:22 PM
The report states: “The UK has significant supply side capability. However, many of the UK’s innovative Smart Cities solutions are from UK SMEs with limited resources, funding and reach. Therefore the UK industry needs to develop if it is to match the pace of international market growth.” I would argue that whilst an international and export-oriented approach is important, there needs to be a greater focus on supporting city authorities in developing and implementing strategic plans around the evolving role of technology their cities.

Many city authorities in the UK are still struggling to adequately leverage novel ICT-based service approaches, or invest in and scale local tech innovations. We see this despite a significant local authority expenditure on ICT (on average 6% of local authority budget). According to the UCL and Arup report ‘Delivering the Smart City’ [available:] only 2% of this was spent on local SMEs in the three years 2011-2014.

If we can better support city authorities in devising sustainable, implementable and appropriate smart city strategies based on their existing priorities, the “development of UK industry” will follow. This is evidenced by the success of the Future Cities Demonstrator funding in instigating local action. Again I would point to the ‘Delivering the Smart City’ report for further evidence as to how to support local authorities in the strategy making process.

Along the lines of supporting the development of smart city strategy, the UN-Habitat Global Network of Safer Cities, in collaboration with UCL looked at 20 case study cities to explore whether city policies around “safety” “smart” and “sustainable” are complimentary or competing. Relevant findings of that report are that: Sustainable-smart-safe “win-win-wins” are possible; Strategy needs institutional commitment; Networking is key. The report can be found here:

Finally I would note a key omission in the key sectors outlined in paragraph 41. That is of democratic accountability and the role of technology in re-shaping democratic participation in 21st century UK cities. The key themes within this (as well as global case studies of citizen participation) are highlighted in the Arup/C40 report ‘polisdigitocracy’ which can be found here:
Michael Batty says:
April 20, 2016 at 04:58 PM
The UK has some very good academic groups in the development of smart cities. These groups are involved in what is loosely called ‘the science of cities’ which brings together methods and models for forecasting the form of future cities and their transport with the various disruptive technologies that are appearing in cities which are making them ‘smart’ in various ways. These are technologies which are affecting in particular transport and energy sectors through the use of smart cards, apps on smart phones, new forms of digital mapping and their services, and the data that is now being streamed from these devices which is generally called ‘big data’ due to its volume.

There exist opportunities to develop very strong links with many parts of the world in the development of smart city technologies by positioning these groups in relation to activities where there is rapid development of cities, particularly East Asia and Latin America. Government should, in my view, identify these groups and leverage their expertise against the academic and training needs of several key hotspots which are providing a market for these new smart city technologies. In particular, UK expertise in extracting big data from all kinds of networked devices is significant as is UK expertise in forecasting future cities using new forms of city science.

One feature of smart cities research which could be emphasised in the evidence involves transport. In many respects, smart cities are primarily being demonstrated through advances in the control of transport. The use of smart cards for ticketing with Transport for London leading the way world wide is in the vanguard of the smart cities movement and the extraction of data from mobile phone records and social media is also important in getting to grips with how cities are getting smarter. Mobile phone operators should be encouraged to share their data in the UK just as TfL are doing, and it is important that this begins to happen because several telecoms providers are doing this outside of the UK with the consequence that new technologies are developing faster in other countries and cities. The UK is singled out for its extremely good academic research in mobile technologies such as that at the Computer Lab in
Cambridge but there is a lack of big telecoms data from within the UK itself. Government could leverage such data in a gentle manner from operators putting the UK in a much better position vis a vis research into such transportation and communications activities. In fact the DoT has a more important role to play in the smart cities domain than is emphasised so far in the evidence.

A couple of papers are submitted for information/background, available at the links below. These can also be provided as PDF documents; please contact Sarah Chaytor ([email protected]) for these.

Professor Michael Batty CBE FRS FBA
Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, UCL
16 April 2016

Farida Shaikh says:
April 04, 2016 at 06:25 PM
In December 2015, following the Strategic Defence and Security Review, the FCO announced the launching of a Cross-Government Prosperity Fund This is £1.3billion Fund over the next 5 years whose aim, in line with the International Development Act, is to promote economic development and prosperity in the developing world. This will contribute to the reduction of poverty and also strengthen UK trade and investment opportunities around the world. The FCO has already received a few bids for some Smart Cities projects, and we expect to see more developing over the 5 year period.