Belfast’s city centre is undergoing a generational transformation as partners work to create an integrated cultural, retail and living environment for the coming decade. Major new investments are being progressed, and the city has plans to greatly increase the area’s residential population, grow new businesses and deliver new forms of urban services.
Digital innovation has an increasingly dominant role to play in both our economy and society and the city’s ambition is to find ways to harness it to better support Belfast’s transformation into a more productive, inclusive, sustainable and vibrant city.
The city centre-based Smart District, led by Belfast City Council, provides a rich and supportive environment for collaborative innovation, bringing together businesses, industry, academia, government and citizens to find innovative solutions to Belfast’s major urban challenges such as climate change, sustainable urban mobility, the future of the high street and healthy urban neighbourhoods.
The Smart District provides a unique opportunity for companies to design, develop, test and deploy innovative urban services and new technologies in a supportive real-world environment; a testbed offering an ‘urban sandbox’ that reduces the complex barriers to in situ innovation and accelerates the development and adoption of digital and data-driven technologies.
Belfast’s Smart District will be a global showcase of innovative ideas, products and services, and an exemplar of how a city can address the 21st century’s urban challenges.
Home to a vibrant and engaged community of innovators, businesses, researchers, and start-ups, the Smart District also benefits from substantial regeneration investments in transport, housing, tourism and cultural experiences, retail and leisure, as well as world-class university facilities and research centres of excellence.
To support the city centre’s regeneration and stimulate collaborative innovation, the Smart District plans to invest in core digital and data infrastructure and funding programmes including:
£30m advanced wireless connectivity
Belfast is one of the most connected cities in Europe. It already has state-of-the-art fibre connectivity, but the city also recognises the strategic importance of next generation wireless connectivity. Partners plan to invest £30 million in advanced wireless networking to support research, business innovation and the creation of new city services.
£54m funding for innovation
Belfast’s Smart District will benefit from a proportion of a £34m mission-orientated Innovation for Societal Impact Fund and £20m Digital Innovation Venture Fund through the Belfast Region City Deal; these funds aim to grow the region’s most innovative industry sectors, support collaborative innovation and tackle some of the city’s most complex urban challenges.
£5m shared urban data platform
A shared urban data platform and architecture will enable businesses, industry, academia and the public sector to generate, manage and analyse data in ways that spur collaboration and open innovation and support data-enabled solutions, products and services in areas such as sustainable mobility, energy management and urban planning.