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Urban Living - a major collaboration with the research councils

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You may be aware of the Higher Education and Research bill currently making its way through Parliament. This (amongst other things) looks to implement the recommendations made by Paul Nurse in his review of the research and innovation landscape.

For Innovate UK, the most significant of these actions is the proposed formation of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), bringing all seven Research Councils together with Innovate UK and parts of HEFCE together into one £6 billion organisation.

The clear aim of UKRI is to:

  • better coordinate the research and innovation landscape
  • harmonise systems to make applying for support easier
  • pull through more UK scientific research excellence into economic impact for the country

The latter of these is already one pillar of Innovate UK’s Five Point Plan for the next four years.

Ahead of the game: working together on urban living

Urban Living - a major collaboration with the research councils

So what might working across all these different bodies look like? Well again we’re already ahead on that aim as well.

Last year the Urban Living Partnership was established; an unprecedented collaboration across all seven Research Councils and Innovate UK.

The challenge facing cities of delivering what their citizens need in the face of reducing budgets, changing demographics and societal and environmental change is a major 21st century issue exacerbated by increasing global urbanisation.

The challenge of improving urban living was one that touched the remits of every Research Council and is a major business opportunity for the UK.

For individual Research Councils, research related to cities varied in priority but urban living rose to the top when looking at multi-disciplinary challenges.

For cities, understanding how the various systems that provide services to citizens interact constructively and destructively is critical.

In the dense melting pot of an urban area engineered systems such as energy, water and transport integrate with social systems such as health, care and culture as well as the digital world and environmental systems.

This ‘whole city’ view can be achieved by bringing the best of academic research together rather than remaining in silos.

Phase one of Urban Living Partnership

Following a call that opened in September the Partnership received 41 full proposals across 37 different cities.

In May, we announced the five pilot projects who bring together over 20 disciplines including:

  • civil engineering
  • computer science
  • planning
  • psychology
  • management
  • arts and humanities
  • the creative industries
  • health sciences

Industrial partners include IBM UK Ltd, Arup, and Atkins Global and have matched the £2 million competition pot with over £1.9 million extra funding.

The pilot cities are:

  • Birmingham,
  • Bristol,
  • Leeds,
  • Newcastle
  • Gateshead

They involve over 70 partners from across business, academia and the third sector.

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.

A common goal for all projects is empowering citizens to co-design their future cities.

The aim is that this is just phase one of the Urban Living Partnership and pilots will learn from each other and share the knowledge and opportunities across UK urban areas and connect with other cities worldwide.

Follow me on Twitter: @pittso

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