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Innovate UK

Growing the market for urban solutions

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City focus

Temple Quay bridge by night, Bristol, UK
Temple Quay bridge by night, Bristol, UK

Most of us either live in, work in, or visit cities regularly. They are engines of growth and by 2050, are expected to be home to 70% of the worlds population.

With such rapid population growth, our cities are facing increasing challenges that need to be addressed. From how people move around, to where they are going to live, to whether they can breathe clean air.

These challenges require innovation - solutions to make cities smarter. And the UK is in prime position to provide those solutions, with world-leading capabilities in industry and academic disciplines spanning:

  • architecture
  • engineering
  • planning
  • digital technologies and much more

However, the innovative solutions available are not necessarily being adopted by cities.

Tech innovations might not properly match cities' needs, as they might lack a proven business case, and they can be difficult to test at the city scale.

How we help

Here at Future Cities Catapult, we address those market failures by helping UK business capitalise on opportunities to generate and implement solutions, in ways that both grow our companies and make our cities better places to live.

We bring together thinkers, innovators and policy makers to forge new collaborations that cut across city, business and academic lines. Our unique position at the intersections between these sectors allows us to share knowledge, solve problems and create exciting collaborative projects involving the UK’s best urban innovation from Universities and companies, large and small. To date we have collaborated with 35 SMEs on 14 projects worldwide.

Delivering solutions and demonstrating performance


We help develop and test cutting-edge urban technologies, business models and services, first through digital or physical modelling in our Cities Lab and then on real streets in our city-based demonstrator projects.

For example, across sites in London, we’ve implemented “Living Labs” to demonstrate what is needed to support an urban Internet of Things at city scale, and to generate data through case studies.

Gathering evidence and insight is at the heart of what we do, so that we can help shape innovations to solve city problems as effectively as possible. Then, through demonstrating performance, we’re able to help businesses and academics push their products to the market faster than ever.

Identifying city problems

Working closely with city policy makers, we aid cities in understanding the problems they face - now and in the future - through the use of predictive models and analytical insights. We help them adopt new procurement, funding, and governance models so that they can choose innovative products and services with greater confidence.

As part of our Cities Standards Institute, we’re also developing standards so that cities around the world can benefit from this best practice.

The International Challenge

To grow the market for UK urban innovation, we have to look internationally. The big market opportunities are overseas, and this will only increase, with accelerating urbanisation in Asia.

Since 1980 the equivalent to the combined populations of the USA, Britain, France, Germany and Italy have left the farms of China’s countryside for an urban future. By 2030, it’s estimated that a billion people, 75% of China’s population, will be city dwellers.

That’s why we’re working hard to take the best new technologies and services from UK high growth businesses to cities across the globe. For example:

  • We’ve continued our projects with Dubai, harnessing UK capabilities to help them develop a “Smart Gulf”
  • In Malacca, Malaysia, we’ve been working to help build capacity in using big data in cities
  • In Belo Horizonte, Brazil, we’re integrating UK smart city technology and expertise specifically in their city mobility plan
  • While in Kolkata, India, we’ve worked to make it one of the early flagship cities of Prime Minister Modi’s 100 Smart Cities initiative
  • We’re just launching a new project, in collaboration with Indian institutions to share best practice across those 100 cities, drawing on UK expertise.

Positioning the UK as a world leader in smart cities

We’re a young organisation, but already we’ve helped 19 cities and engaged with more than 300 UK SMEs to deliver city solutions, investing to grow the UK market, whilst making cities better places to live and work.

Our work creates opportunities for UK businesses - particularly SMEs - to access the market and deliver city-wide innovation, whilst strengthening the economy and positioning the UK as a world leader in smart cities.

On top of that, we are making cities better places to live. Whether in Bristol or Belfast, Milton Keynes or Manchester, we’ve developed products that have potential to improve citizens lives, and the environment around them. And that is something that we at Future Cities Catapult are very proud of.

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