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Smart Cities

We have been working with city partners, and the Future Cities Catapult, to develop a ‘Smart Belfast’ framework that seeks to build on the city’s burgeoning strengths in the digital sector in order to encourage greater innovation between local businesses, our universities and the public sector.

The goal is to harness such innovative collaboration to tackle traditional urban challenges, while at the same time, fostering an urban environment in which Belfast businesses can experiment and build great products for twenty-first century cities. 

Places such as Glasgow, Dublin, Bristol, and Manchester are successfully using such frameworks to:

  • leverage substantial private sector investment and grant funding 
  • provide a creative environment in which local SMEs and entrepreneurs can develop new products and services
  • deliver innovative joint projects that are making substantial contributions to urban challenges such as waste, energy, traffic and water management
  • improve services for citizens and communities.

This short video explains our approach.

While developing our framework we have also delivering demonstrator projects to test our ideas.

Launch of the Smart Belfast framework and the Collaborative Challenge programme

We are launching the ‘Smart Belfast Collaborative Challenge’ with Invest NI on Tuesday 26 September 2017 from 9.30am. 

Aimed at SMEs the programme will provide funding and expertise to Northern Ireland companies that want to enhance their competitive edge by working together to address challenges that Belfast and other cities are facing today.

Initially, £25,000 will be available for up to eight networks seeking to explore innovation in:

  • urban transport
  • the visitor experience 
  • the circular economy
  • active living 
  • the management of the public estate.

More substantial funding may then be available for those network proposals that can demonstrate business growth potential.

Hosted by Belfast Lord Mayor Councillor Nuala McAllister, and featuring contributions from leading urban technologists, the launch event will provide you with more details on the Smart Belfast framework, the five urban challenge areas, and the practicalities of participating in the challenge programme. There will also be a Smart Belfast marketplace providing opportunities for companies to network and showcase their digital innovations.

We believe this will be an exciting opportunity for those businesses seeking to innovate in the burgeoning Smart City market which most commentators agree is likely to offer substantial business development potential over the coming decade. 

If would like to take part, you can register online on Invest NI's website.

The Smart Belfast foundations

The Smart Belfast framework aims to grown the city’s strengths in four areas:

  1. Shared understanding of city challenges: Partners need to find new ways to work together to understand and analyse shared problems. There is the opportunity to adopt innovative ‘design-led’ approaches from industry that allow public sector partners to think differently about challenges, and then to develop and test their ideas before applying them at scale. 

  2. An engaged innovator community: If we want to co-opt the local SME sector and our universities to tackle challenges together, we need to find new ways of doing this beyond traditional procurement channels. These might include establishing innovative city challenge programmes, Small Business Research Initiatives (SBRIs), R&D collaborative agreements, social innovation programmes, competitions, joint investment vehicles, etc. 

  3. Building city data assets: In a modern knowledge economy access to data is as an important an economic resource as access to financing or workforce skills. There is a growing demand from digital SMEs for access to public data that will allow them to create new products and services. Partners in a smart city need to get much more sophisticated in how they generate, manage and store public data safely and securely.

  4. Robust delivery mechanisms: City partners need to find new ways of attracting investment; co-opting the support of partners; and designing agile delivery mechanisms that can develop ideas, test them, and rapidly scale proven successes in timescales that are measured in weeks rather than months. 
If you want to find out more about the Smart Belfast framework, please email the team at smartbelfast@belastcity.gov.uk


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