Skip to main content
Home » Future of work » The UK’s cities of tomorrow
Future of work

The UK’s cities of tomorrow


Ed Vaizey

MP, Digital Economy Minister

This government is breaking new ground in devolving power to local people. This provides fantastic opportunities for cities to thrive, especially as Smart Cities.

Data analytics, Building Information Management and Intelligent Mobility are all part of the mixture for Smart Cities. So too is the Internet of Things – whereby devices, vehicles, buildings and other items are embedded with electronics, sensors and software and have network connectivity, enabling them to collect and exchange data and so make public services far more efficient.

The government does not have a single model for Smart Cities. Not only would that be at odds with devolution but local needs differ. So instead we have acted in specific areas and specific ways to offer support.

In 2013 we published a background paper that considered opportunities for the UK and looked at international case studies. That work is ongoing. The same year we established the Future Cities Catapult – a global centre for urban innovation. It is currently working with 20 UK cities and local authorities and 15 projects on four continents. The Future Cities Catapult and BSI together run the City Standards Institute, which publishes free online tools to help cities.

Through the Future Cities Demonstrators we funded 29 cities so they could do feasibility studies for using new applications to integrate and improve services. Four winning cities were awarded subsequent funding – with Glasgow receiving £24 million and Bristol, London and Peterborough each receiving £3 million. Last year Peterborough beat cities including Dubai and Buenos Aires to win the City Award at the Global Smart City Expo in Barcelona.

Overall, the competition generated a lot of additional private and public sector funding. And most of the cities that didn’t win nevertheless proceeded with their proposals.

In 2015 City Verve, a Manchester-based programme, won the Internet of Things Demonstrator Competition. City Verve will trial applications for healthcare, transport, energy and the environment, culture and the community. It will share business models with other cities too.

World class expertise

Our Smart Cities can not only learn from each other but also share and sell their expertise. So this is a major investment and export opportunity. With the global smart cities market estimated to be worth up to £1 trillion by 2020, the UK is extremely well placed to take commercial advantage of this.  That is why events such as the upcoming Connected Cities Trade Mission to SE Asia, jointly led by UKTI and Innovate UK, are crucial to increasing the UK’s global smart city footprint. The mission will provide bespoke training to 20 innovative UK companies, before taking them to Malaysia and Singapore to pitch for specific business opportunities. The Government’s Exporting is GREAT campaign, which aims to inspire and support 100,000 new exporters by 2020, identifies smart cities as a key growth sector for UK exports. The campaign’s dedicated website,, hosts over £350 million of live international opportunities, including smart technology contracts, which UK companies can apply for in real time.

We are looking to the future too. The Government Office for Science’s Future of Cities Project looks at scenarios for UK cities up to the year 2065. The Open University’s free six-week online course on Smart City concepts helps people here and around the world understand the opportunities.

The Future Cities Catapult has identified more than 32,000 companies in the UK that are offering solutions for the Smart Cities market. UK expertise in architecture and urban design already contributes £16 billion and 400,000 jobs to our economy, so our potential is enormous.

By 2050 more than 7 billion people will live in urban areas. The UK’s Smart Cities can be an inspiration and global leader in shaping great places to live.

Next article