Infrastructure > Cloud

Bristol outstrips London to be dubbed the UK’s “smartest city”

David Bicknell Published 23 October 2017

Latest Huawei UK Smart Cities Index marks out Bristol and London as smart cities ‘leaders’ followed by ‘contenders’ such as Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and Milton Keynes


A so-called ‘Smart Cities Index’ has suggested that Bristol has outstripped London as the UK’s leading “smart city”, the term given to cities that are building the embedding digital innovation into frontline services.

The Index, commissioned by Huawei UK and conducted by Navigant Consulting, has poroduced a report based on evaluations of 20 cities and their strategies, key projects and overall readiness in using digital technology to improve crucial civic services from transport infrastructure to healthcare.

Only two cities, Bristol and London, were named as “leaders”, with the south west city just taking the top spot. The most improved city is Manchester, which has climbed two places to third, while Cambridge entered the top ten despite not featuring at all in last year’s report.

The report names 12 “contender” cities which are: Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Milton Keynes, Glasgow, Nottingham, Peterborough, Cambridge, Oxford, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Newcastle, with Belfast, Sheffield, Reading and Liverpool named as ‘challengers’ and Cardiff and Exeter named as “followers.”

Bristol’s move to top spot is said in the Index to be a direct result of it taking significant strides to extend its innovation programmes and more closely integrate those initiatives into “city strategy”. The ‘Bristol Is Open’ project provides a large scale connectivity testbed and the new City Operations Centre ensures that services are effectively implemented. The city also leads in data access, energy innovation and community engagement.

According to the Index, London’s smart city plans have evolved since the 2016 ranking to focus on data-driven policy initiatives and an ambitious new environmental plan. There has also been considerable progress in several London boroughs, notably in the Digital Greenwich programme. The recent appointment of a chief digital officer, Theo Blackwell, is expected to accelerate London’s development in coming months.

The important role of partners such as the Future Cities Catapult, Innovate UK, the Scottish Smart Cities initiative, academic institutions and the private sector is also emphasised as key drivers for smart cities progress. Central government support is regarded as beneficial to smart cities programmes, with an accompanying Index report urging central government to underwrite risk, address procurement issues and support collaboration.

Matt Hancock, minister of state for Digital and Culture, said, “The digital revolution is gaining momentum all over the UK - smarter cities can improve people's everyday lives from accessing healthcare to simplifying waste management and streamlining public services. We are backing smart cities and the recent review into Artificial Intelligence highlighted how we can establish ourselves as the world leader in this area of emerging technology."

Sir Andrew Cahn, Huawei UK Board, said, “The successful cities of the future are going to be smart cities. It’s clear from this report that cities across the UK have made considerable progress over the last year, developing and implementing strategies to improve the delivery of public services and the urban environment. The scale of progress throughout the country is represented by a doubling in the number of cities included in this year’s ranking index compared to 2016. While Bristol and London are named as “leaders”, other cities have entered the index with exciting smart initiatives, such as Newcastle’s City Futures programme and Cambridge’s Smart Cambridge intelligent City Platform (iCP).”

Eric Woods, research director at Navigant Consulting, which led the study, added, “UK cities are demonstrating an impressive commitment to service and technology innovation. They are now embedding smart city ideas into city planning and operations. They are also preparing for the impact of the next wave of technologies, including 5G, autonomous vehicles, and machine learning. The growing contribution that local universities are making to these programmes further emphasises the importance of advanced technologies to the future of UK cities.”


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