On Wednesday 9 October, the Department for Business Innovation & Skills announced the launch of their new Smart Cities Forum. It coincided with the publishing of a paper that sets out the global market opportunities and UK capabilities for future smart cities.

BIS suggests the following definition of a smart city: “A smart city uses intelligent technology to enhance our quality of life in urban environments. Cities can use the data in a variety of ways; to save money, minimise waste, measure domestic water usage and manage transport routes.”

Ahead of the announcement, Capgemini UK held a collaborative workshop on Tuesday 8 October in its dedicated environment designed to help with finding the solutions to problems, our Accelerated Solutions Environment in Holborn, London. This workshop was covered by Greenbang, ‘Road to ‘smart’ cities is paved with innovation opportunities‘.

Greenbang‘s Dan Ilett said this about the event:
The event was to capture the ideas of people who work in the smart cities industry to attempt to lay down some standards…

I was there only for the first session, but it was brilliant. In contrast to three or four years ago when hardly anyone was working on smart cities, there were many people from public and private sector working together. And we all agreed on one thing — we do not yet have a good enough definition or vision of “smart city” to work to…

… It is Greenbang’s view that smart cities will occur whether there is a framework around the definition or not. People will find ways to develop apps and technology layers that fix problems for society — because developers always find a way to solve problems. We should therefore get more specific about the problems cities face.”

BIS’s paper suggests that future success depends on three main elements:

  • An innovative and demanding customer in the form of British town halls
  • Continuous development of capability
  • Staying abreast of global developments and seizing opportunities

In particular it is the second of these points that is key. And it is highlighted in BIS’s press release. The paper says that there should be the establishment of “a Smart Cities Forum, comprising representatives from cities, business, OGDs and the research base, to develop a shared perspective, identify barriers to progress and advise Ministers on strategic priorities, global developments/opportunities, and to co-ordinate Government policies in areas related to smart cities.”

I spoke to Graham Colclough, Global Cities Lead for Capgemini, and he said that this new strategy hinges on three key questions:
“1. Which cities will be able to free up and bring together the necessary leadership to create and align around a common vision and roadmap, that will address the big, and growing, challenges they face, particularly given current business-as-usual pressures; and will they agree to be open to working together with new and different partners in new and different ways?

2. Can the UK build – particularly through the Smart Cities Forum – the essential alignment and collaboration between central Government departments, industry and cities that set the context by which cities can advance?

3. Given this, how can the UK accelerate the advancement of its cities and industries to be most relevant and competitive on a global stage?

The battles abroad are as important to consider for ‘UK plc’ as the ones at home.”

As Ilett says following attendance of our workshop, “[to address all of that] you really need some good policies in place … It will be exciting to see what these guys produce.

Addition, 11 October 2013
The launch of the Smart Cities Forum was also covered in the following media:
BIS launches Smart Cities Forum to capitalise on the growing industryComputer Weekly, 10 October
UK expected to grab 10% of £250bn smart cities industry by 2020ComputerWorld, 9 October
UK smart city sector could be worth $40bn by 2020Engineering and Technology Magazine, 9 October
Smart Cities ForumFresh Business Thinking, 9 October
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills introduces new Smart Cities ForumFinancial News, 9 October