Genuinely smart cities strive to integrate

smart citiesWhen it comes to city ambitions for sustainability it often seems the concept of a ‘smart city’ is falling between the cracks of silo-thinking when it has the opportunity to integrate, unify and deliver multi-ambitions and objectives.

Too often the comment is ‘well, I am in charge of transport but the person in charge of “smart” is over there in economic development’, or, ‘we’ll do the smart bit when we’ve cracked this highways contract and decided what to do with the economic regeneration plan, I’ll have more time then’.

Big, missed opportunities.

It was heartening, then, to attend the excellent Smart Cities and Communities conference in Manchester a few weeks ago where several cities and agencies showed how they were actively integrating their ambitions for growth, quality, citizen engagement, transport, energy, asset management, governance and performance. Many were trialling things at a manageable (albeit still ambitious) scale – such as the work underway in the Manchester Oxford Road corridor and across Peterborough.

One cannot help but be impressed by the commitment to the smart agenda in Singapore – a city half the size of Manchester but with twice the population. Culturally attuned to technology and acting smarter, it’s invested heavily in the infrastructure needed to achieve its positioning in the global economy and to ensure that it is able to embrace opportunity.

I would like to see other cities, like Nottingham and Sheffield (where I work and live) embrace these opportunities so that they can achieve their ambitions for carbon reduction, liveability, traffic congestion, air quality improvements etc. Birmingham and Bristol have embraced this in their ‘commissioned’ strategies. Sheffield‘s recent Green Commission report paid lip service to ‘smart’ but it showed a lack of understanding. In Nottingham, I hope, it will be seen as an opportunity to harness the collective agencies for transport, energy, planning, regeneration, business growth, citizen engagement, green and blue space management, healthcare and security. But there is some catching up to do.

So the question posed by Cedric Price remains a good one. It’s not all about technology, of course, but without a vision, leadership, some projects, willing partners and a desire to make the sum of the parts add up a little better, you’ll not be smart. And that makes you…

Andy Nolan

Andy Nolan

Andy Nolan is director of sustainability at the University of Nottingham. He is writing in a personal capacity. https://aardvarknoseface.wordpress.com | @andynolanEJ

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