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Belfast harnesses innovation to deliver urban transformation

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Date: 06 Feb 2023

Belfast City Hall lit at night

Belfast City Council has announced proposals for a Smart District that will harness digital innovation to support the transformation of Belfast city centre.

The Smart District is one of several initiatives in the council’s new Smart Belfast Urban Innovation Framework. The aim of the framework is to encourage city partners to adopt powerful tools from the digital world, together with research from Belfast’s universities, to tackle Belfast’s major challenges.

Councillor Emmet McDonough-Brown, Chair of Belfast City Council’s Strategic Policy and Resources Committee, said: “Digital technology is key to the growth of our future economy, but it also offers opportunities to create innovative solutions for tackling major city challenges, such as climate change and healthy urban living. We’re committed to working with our city’s innovators, researchers, businesses and local communities to use these technologies to deliver new and better services, experiences, jobs and investment opportunities – and a richer quality of life for our citizens, as set out in The Belfast Agenda, the city’s community plan.

“In particular, Belfast’s Smart District will bring this innovation focus to our city centre. It will be a collaborative testbed for new ideas and technologies that maximise investment opportunities, while directly addressing the challenges associated with the city centre. The Smart District will also showcase the best of our city’s amazing innovators in industry and academia to the world.

“The citizen is at the heart of our plans. It’s important to the success of both the Smart District and our wider approach to urban innovation, that communities are directly involved in identifying the challenges we want to address and in co-designing solutions.”

Belfast City Council’s City Innovation Office is working with partners and industry to attract co-investment for the approach and is tapping into £120 million of digital funding from the Belfast Region City Deal. The investments will enhance the city’s digital infrastructure and provide funding to encourage businesses and academia to collaborate on city challenges.

The Smart Belfast Urban Innovation Framework has been endorsed by a range of city leaders.

Simon Hamilton, Chief Executive of Belfast Chamber of Trade and Commerce, said: “We increasingly live in a digitally enabled world that’s generating new opportunities. As we plan for the coming decade, it’s important that we work together to maximise the positive impact of digital innovation on Belfast, our communities, and our economy. Belfast Chamber is particularly excited about the role of our local SMEs in how they can apply digital innovation to the future of our city centre.”

Roisin Wood, Chief Executive Officer, Community Foundation NI added: “The nature of digital technology is such that its impact will be felt right across all aspects of our society. It’s vital that individuals and communities are at the heart of ensuring tech is a force for positive impact. I’m pleased to see that Smart Belfast has integrated collaboration and inclusion with the citizen into its approach.”

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