UK BCSD – Jacobs Smart Cities Conference in Glasgow

The Conference hosted by the Inst for Future Cities at Strathclyde University is the first in a series to be held across the UK.

It is well understood that increasing urbanisation is a global issue and that by 2050 over 70% of the World’s population will live in cities.  The aim of the Glasgow Conference was to examine ‘What makes a successful Smart City’ based on the knowledge of nine presenters with experience ranging from policymaker and academic research to technology provider and entrepreneurs.

Speakers included:

  • Alan Hendry – Jacobs Chair
  • Pat Laughlin – UKBCSD
  • Ross Martin – SCDI/Scottish Cities Alliance
  • Richard Bellingham – Institute for Future Cities
  • Gavin Slater – Glasgow City Council
  • Michael Burns – Glasgow University
  • Graeme Dodds – Jacobs
  • Marc Hayes – Drench
  • Brian McGuigan – SilverSpring Network
  • Simon Tricker – Urban Tide

Chairman of the UK BCSD in Scotland, Alan Hendry of Jacobs, and UK BCSD CEO, Pat Laughlin, opened the debate with an explanation of the WBCSD Sustainable Cities global programme and the UK BCSD focus on Sustainable Places, Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience. Both programmes focus on the importance of collaboration between business and public bodies, and the design of well-integrated infrastructure and services. Their objective is to support the creation of towns and cities which provided a good quality of life for future citizens.

Many common themes emerged from the nine presentations:

  • There is no one agreed definition of a Smart City but all presenters agreed that a Smart City is ‘A sustainable place with a focus on its citizens and the aim of achieving a good quality of life’.


Economic Issues

  • Sustainable Cities must become Sustainable Places (such as City regions) as a City cannot exist solely within its administrative boundaries.
  • Smart Cities or Sustainable Places can create a strong economic and social dynamic but currently the full economic potential of Smart city developments is not being achieved –mainly because of limited stakeholder collaboration
  • ‘One size’ of planning and design for Smart Cities will not ‘fit all’ across the world. Small scale technologies can result in significant change as cities expand in the developing world
  • In the UK Successful Smart Cities and Sustainable Places will result from strong collaborations between the public and private sectors and also more formal working/engagement with universities (to build on their development plans and expertise).
  • Cities may be underachieving because systems are not integrated as a matter of course. There is still too much silo working both within and across organisations


Social and People Issues

  • Smart Cities are about Smart People
  • Successful Smart Cities and Sustainable Places will only be delivered if policymakers focus on people and their needs and not on the power of technology alone.
  • The integration of Smart systems in design can open up both innovation and the opportunity to capture key data which can help to improve the delivery of Smart public services and create Smart empowered citizens (open ecosystems)
  • Mobility systems need to recognise that the purpose should be to move people and goods to where they are needed. Greater account to be taken of ‘mobility on demand’.
  • Smart Cities must demonstrate Value and life there should not simply be ‘bearable’. While currently the majority of citizens (estimated 95%) do not recognise the Smart City concept, they know what they expect to see in a good environment and a growing majority of 19-24 year olds will move to cities and towns which meet their expectation of ‘Smart’.


Technology and Systems Issues


  • Sustainable Places will not be created by reliance on technology alone
  • Systems and technologies are often designed and installed in isolation, therefore their optimum potential is not realised
  • The infrastructure of the future should be INFOstructure with technologies citizen-focused
  • Investment in Smart digital technologies does not always place sufficient importance on the process to be delivered, or recognise the essential requirement to build in flexibility and future proofing. Global standards need to be developed to support this.
  • Energy networks must be integrated and should consider demand management processes for the future rather than only monitoring localised energy efficiency gains.


Finally delegates heard about a new innovative and Smart product which can support the management of demand for water and waste water treatment and help with issues such as fuel poverty by reducing the need to heat large quantities of water both in commercial premises and at home.


Full details and presentations from the Conference will be made available and these emerging themes will be examined at future events – the next in Birmingham 5 October 2016 – Click to register

Victoria Kinally is a researcher for the UK Business Council for Sustainable Development and Midlands Environmental Business Company.

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