Solving city problems
Over the last few years, Innovate UK has put a lot of effort into the future of cities. We have set up the Future Cities Catapult Centre, and created an Urban Living programme that has supported projects in everything from large scale demonstration of integration of city systems and modelling of complete cities, to the application of Internet of Things technologies and satellite observation to solving city problems.
Why do we think that cities matter so much and offer such exciting opportunities for innovation?
Cities are undergoing rapid change
Cities are undergoing rapid change. In 2008 for the first time in human history, more than half the world’s population lived in urban areas. By 2050 70% of a much larger population will live in cities and towns. In fact, over the coming decades the urban population will absorb all of the global increase in population and continue to draw people from rural areas to urban centres.
We are becoming an urban species, and cities must evolve to meet our needs. They have to provide a strong economy, so that people have jobs and a place to trade, support well-being and provide a good quality of life, and do all this in a way that is flexible, resilient and adaptable to environmental, social and political shocks.
Cities are economic engines
Cities are the economic engines of the world. They usually have higher GDP per capita, higher levels of education, and greater rates of innovation and business formation than the average for their host countries. 80% of global GDP is already generated in cities. At the same time, they are struggling with climate change, changes in population and demographics, congestion and air quality, healthcare and pressure on key resources such as water, food and energy. How can cities deliver all the benefits whilst limiting the downsides of size and growth?
Thinking of the city holistically
The scale of the transformation of our urban environment is immense. £38 trillion will be invested in global infrastructure by 2030, and innovation is required everywhere. Innovate UK has substantial programmes in transport, the built environment, the digital economy, energy generation and supply and healthcare. These are all essential systems for the success of cities, but these have not yet been combined to think about the city a whole. For rapidly growing cities facing all the pressures of environmental and population shift and resource crunches of all kinds it is vital that we move from optimising the individual city systems to integrating those systems to radically improve city performance.
Integrating city systems
The global market for integrating city systems alone is expected to be worth more than £200 billion p.a. by 2030. That is the prize for innovation in urban living, and that is why we are so excited about the potential for UK companies.
Cities require new solutions
So cities will require new solutions based on the latest developments in materials, manufacturing, electronics, computing and biosciences, to improve hundreds of different city systems and the way they work together. The future is being created in the world’s cities, and they are your future market.
You can follow me on Twitter @miller_klein
- Learn about the Urban Living Partnership that we are running with all seven Research Councils
- Don't miss the Bristol Festival of the Future City: we are running 3 events
- Read about the Future Cities Demonstrators we are organising with city authorities
- Meet UrbanMinded: a company we supported whose products solve urban challenges
You can follow Innovate UK on: