People in the driving seat as minister announces £3.9M urban regeneration partnerships
People living in the cities of Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Newcastle & Gateshead and York will benefit from a new research and innovation initiative that puts them in the driving seat to help improve their cities’ health, wellbeing and prosperity as they face up to challenges of modern urban living.
Phase one of the Urban Living Partnership, a first-of-its-kind investment by the seven UK Research Councils and the government’s innovation agency, Innovate UK, brings citizens together with university researchers, local authorities and over 70 partners from business and the third sector, in five multidisciplinary pilot initiatives aimed at rewriting the blueprint for the evolution of our city living.
Taking a ‘whole city’ approach, the Urban Living Partnership brings together a unique body of expertise cutting across over 20 disciplines including civil engineering, computer science, planning, psychology, management, arts and humanities, the creative industries and health sciences.
Partners to the £3.9M first phase of the initiative are contributing over £1.9M and include: IBM UK Ltd, Arup, Atkins Global, The Environment Agency, Natural England and the Future Cities Catapult.
Announcing the launch of the Urban Living Partnership, Minister for Universities and Science, Jo Johnson, said: “At their best, cities drive innovation, cultural and economic activity and social integration, however they also face increasing challenges, such as overheating, congestion, poor supply of water and the removal of waste. These new projects will combine business acumen with academic talent and community leadership to help tackle these issues and ensure the continued prosperity in five of our greatest cities.”
While each project faces distinct challenges, they also share common goals – such as empowering citizens to co-design their future cities, and finding ways to turn grand challenges into mutually beneficial business opportunities, leading to greater health, wellbeing and prosperity.
Projects will exploit the latest environmental monitoring, urban modelling, data analysis and crowdsourcing tools, and will employ a range of cutting-edge technologies, such as wireless sensing networks, wearable devices and virtual reality systems.
Another key strand will be the development of open-license digital platforms from which other cities can benefit – both in the UK and internationally.
Professor Philip Nelson, chair of Research Councils UK’s Strategic Executive, said: “The complexity of future urban living is beyond any single business, sector or discipline. We need joined-up strategies for innovation within cities and urban areas.
“This joint investment by the Research Councils and Innovate UK will help accelerate the exploitation of the UK’s world class research and innovation base. In so doing we will have better designed spaces, stronger urban economies, more effective and sustainable use of available infrastructure and resources, and happier and healthier lives.”
Ruth McKernan, chief executive of Innovate UK, said: “Innovate UK has a shared vision with the Research Councils to deliver UK growth through an innovative, high value, knowledge-based economy with high productivity.
“How we shape the cities of the future is fundamental to boosting productivity and creating the new industries and jobs of tomorrow. Innovate UK works all the time with businesses to help drive economic growth. Now, we are excited that for the first time, all of the UK’s research councils have come together to work with Innovate UK on such a project."
A key feature of these projects is their diversity, spanning disciplines and sectors. The Newcastle partnership, for example, includes among its partners Newcastle City Council; The Royal Society for Arts North East; Tyne and Wear Urban Traffic Management Centre; TechCity; the Federation of Small Businesses; the Newcastle Schools Forum; Northumbrian Water; and IBM Europe’s Intelligent Operations and Resilience programme – which provides data visualisation and deep analytics to help city agencies enhance their efficiency and planning.
Commenting on his company’s involvement in the Leeds Urban Living Partnership, led by the University of Leeds, Jim Johnson, a director of global engineering consultancy firm, Arup, said: “We feel that this is an innovative and timely initiative, which fits well with current thinking within Arup, aligning with ongoing research and project delivery in Leeds and across our national and international work.”
Amey plc, the Oxford-based engineering consultancy and infrastructure support specialist, is a key partner in the Birmingham pilot. The company’s IT Director for Smart Data and Technology, Dr Rick Robinson, said: “Birmingham’s diverse economy and communities, along with its innovative businesses and research institutions, have the capability to create a wealth of innovative urban solutions locally, and to address the needs of cities around the world. Amey is proud to be a long-term partner of Birmingham and we look forward to supporting this exciting initiative.”
Councillor Andrew Waller, Executive Member for the Environment at City of York Council, said: “The Urban Living Partnership will enable York to develop a coherent and prioritised list of health, wellbeing and economic concerns that are potentially linked to the quality of the city environment.
“We will look to the past, present and future in trying to diagnose and predict environmental issues for York and their associated human health, wellbeing and economic impacts, and provide the evidence-base for making decisions on how best to manage and enhance the city systems.”
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