UK government to award £24m 'smart city' fund

The UK government is urging local authorities to submit blueprints for turning their cities into “smart cities” by integrating transport, communications and other city infrastructure, for the chance to win £24 million of government investment.

The Future Cities Demonstrator programme, run by the Technology Strategy Board (TSB), aims to kickstart the market for integrated city systems, which is estimated to be worth £200 billion a year by 2030. The government has already lent its support to smart city schemes driven by Intel and Living PlanIT, but this is the first time it will offer financial support for such a project.

Local governments and local authorities are being invited to bid for one of twenty £50,000 grants to carry out a feasibility study to develop their demonstrator project proposal. The cities that complete the feasibility study will then be invited to submit a proposal for the large scale demonstrator, and one successful city will be awarded £24 million funding to implement their proposal.

“Cities face major challenges such as changes in population and demographics, congestion, waste and pressure on resources and services. This underlines the need for our future cities to have high-quality, integrated infrastructure to meet these challenges,” said Universities and Science minister David Willetts.

“There is great potential for Britain to lead the way in this area and that’s why this programme is so important. I’m looking forward to hearing about the bids which cities put forward and seeing what the city of the future may look like.”

The TSB said the winning project should aim to improve the local economy, increase quality of life and reduce impact on the environment. The competition is open to cities with at least 125,000 residents, and project proposals must be submitted by the city or local authority before noon on 5 July 2012.

The £24 million is expected to fund the winning project for two years, but applicants should demonstrate the potential for further development after that time. They are also encouraged to build on previous investment in city infrastructure and provide a platform for innovative companies to test their ideas.

A requirement of the public funding is that the results of the demonstrator project are made publicly available and are widely disseminated.

The TSB is also establishing a catapult centre for Future Cities in Shoreditch to help UK businesses integrate city functions and services efficiently. The organisation said this will address a wide number of problems experienced in cities today, such as changes to population, demographics climate, congestion and healthcare.

Last month, Intel announced the launch of a new research institute to promote sustainable connected cities, in collaboration with Imperial College London and University College London. Using London as a test bed, researchers plan to employ real-time user and city infrastructure data to improve efficiency.

Meanwhile, a consortium of companies, led by software developer Living PlanIT, recently signed a memorandum of understanding, promising to develop applications that will enable communities to live and work in “an intelligent, efficient and sustainable urban environment”.

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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