Newcastle named as a top UK smart city

Newcastle is the fastest growing region outside of London for digital and technology employment, according to the second UK Smart Cities Index.

Commissioned by Huawei UK and conducted by Navigant Consulting, the report is based on evaluations of 20 cities and their strategies, key projects and overall readiness in using digital technology to improve crucial civic services from transport infrastructure to healthcare.

Newcastle has been ranked in the 14th position across the UK, and is named one of 12 “contender” cities alongside: Manchester, Aberdeen, Leeds, Milton Keynes, Glasgow, Nottingham, Peterborough, Cambridge, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Oxford. The overall leader in the report is Bristol, followed by London.

Newcastle’s smart city initiatives focus on identifying solutions for major challenges and boosting its aim to be a leading city for science and digital technology. Newcastle University and Newcastle City Council are together developing Science Central, a £350 million flagship project that brings together academia, the public sector, communities, business and the industry to a create a global centre for urban innovation.

Smart and socially inclusive initiatives

 Newcastle City Futures (NCF) is at the forefront of progressing smart and socially inclusive initiatives across the city. Newcastle University led the establishment of NCF in 2014, as a collaborative platform to bring together Research and Development potential with long-term policy trends and business needs in the city. Over the years, NCF has scaled its activities to become one of five Urban Living Partnership (ULP) pilots funded with £1.2 million from Research Councils UK and Innovate UK.

In addition, Newcastle University continues to invest in new projects within Newcastle Science Central where its Urban Sciences Building (a £60m centre for digital data and visualisation) has opened. The University has also been awarded more than £8 million in Research Council grants to Open Lab, which will create a digital civics programme involving 60 PhD digital and public service students and a digital economy research centre.

Overcoming economic and social challenges

 Professor Mark Tewdwr-Jones, Director, Newcastle City Futures, Newcastle University said: “We’re pressing ahead with a refreshed vision and unique partnership model to accelerate the adoption of smart, clean and digital technologies that will enable us to overcome the economic and social challenges our city is currently facing. We’re extremely proud to be included and recognised in this year’s Huawei Smart Cities Index, as it shows the scale of progress we have made over the past 18 months. An important element to the city’s success is key funding in smart city initiatives and projects that are set to transform Newcastle to an all-around digital city.”

Sir Andrew Cahn, Huawei UK Board, said: “The successful cities of the future are going to be smart cities. It’s clear from this report that cities across the UK have made considerable progress over the last year, developing and implementing strategies to improve the delivery of public services and the urban environment. The scale of progress throughout the country is represented by a doubling in the number of cities included in this year’s ranking index compared to 2016. While Bristol and London are named as “leaders”, other cities have entered the index with exciting smart initiatives, such as Newcastle’s, City Futures programme and Cambridge’s, Smart Cambridge intelligent City Platform (iCP).”

Eric Woods, research director at Navigant Consulting, who led the study, said: “UK cities are demonstrating an impressive commitment to service and technology innovation. They are now embedding smart city ideas into city planning and operations. They are also preparing for the impact of the next wave of technologies, including 5G, autonomous vehicles, and machine learning. The growing contribution that local universities are making to these programmes further emphasises the importance of advanced technologies to the future of UK cities.”

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