Jun 01, 2020

Top 10 smart cities in the UK

Internet of Things
Navigant Research
UK smart cities
Sustainable development in the UK
Bizclik Editor
7 min
Top 10 smart cities in the UK

Smart cities are becoming commonplace, with the Internet of Things (IoT) powering the way humans and devices interact with one another.

Being ‘smart’ can not only deliver enormous benefits in terms of better delivery of services, but also environmentally, with connected devices and effective use of data enabling better planning and use of resources.

Navigant Research has carried out a detailed study of what it deems the 10 leading smart cities in the UK, its methodology explained below:

“The 10 cities were selected on the breadth and depth of their smart or future city strategy and specific programmes in areas such as digital innovation, social care, urban mobility, energy, education, and sustainability. The assessment also looks at the extent of their partnerships and collaboration with other agencies and the private sector. A detailed comparison was made of the top 10 cities to identify the current leaders and their closest challengers.”

Scores are out of 100, based on strategy and delivery. Here are the top 10 cities, according to the report.

1 – London (80.5)

NR: “London has been a leader in a number of significant urban innovations, including the London Congestion Charge and other low-carbon transport programmes, an ambitious climate plan, an energy program that emphasises local resources and the importance of retrofitting an aging building stock, and a strong commitment to open data and the exploitation of data to improve services. London’s infrastructure investment, innovation culture, and ability to attract investment are also important factors in its success. Many of these developments have been driven by the Mayor’s office, and the election of a new mayor in 2016 can be expected to add a new impetus to the city’s smart city initiatives.

“The biggest challenges for London are not surprisingly aspects of its size and complexity, notably ensuring that benefits of the smart city spread across all communities. A significant responsibility will fall on the boroughs, but there is also an important and continuing role for the GLA to provide direction, encourage collaboration, and to support the sharing of innovations.”

2 – Bristol (80.2)

NR: “Bristol has established itself as a leader in many aspects of smart city development. The broader smart city strategy provides a framework to connect successful innovations with priority issues for the city and its communities. The Bristol Is Open project provides a basis for Bristol to develop as a unique laboratory for urban innovation. Bristol is also leading the way in areas such as open data access, energy innovation, and community engagement. The encouragement of playable city ideas is also an important reminder of the need for smart cities to be attractive and engaging, as well as efficient and data rich.”

3 – Birmingham (77.9)

NR: “Birmingham has established an ambitious and detailed smart city strategy that encompasses a range of agencies, stakeholders, and communities. The city has made good progress against its initial goals, but the main challenges lie ahead. It is now developing detailed plans for the development of innovative solutions in East Birmingham, for projects that exploit the investments being made for the HS2 high-speed rail project, and for the establishment of a digital infrastructure and information sharing platform to support these and other projects. There is a clear opportunity for Birmingham to build on its initial digital innovations and link them with the city and regional development plan. The East Birmingham demonstrator will provide an interesting test of how these elements can be brought together to address a range of community issues. Already, new projects and activities relating to the IoT, big data, healthy aging, geospatial regeneration, and community engagement are beginning to emerge.”

4 – Glasgow (75.1)

NR: “Glasgow’s Future Cities Demonstrator has given it a unique platform on which to build its smart city strategy. The challenge now is to ensure that momentum is maintained on the most successful projects and the spirit of innovation is retained. The city is already working on a plan for the future developments. It will also be publishing a report on lessons learnt in the past 2 years. Its role as lead partner in the Scottish Smart Cities Alliance provides another avenue to build on the experience of the last two years.”

5 – Manchester (74.2)

NR: “Manchester’s smart city strategy is building on its established digital strategy, a number of substantial demonstrator projects, and its ambitions for regional devolution. It is achieving this through a number of key partnerships, notably with local universities, other local authorities across Greater Manchester, and with private sector partners such as Siemens. The recently awarded IoT Demonstrator project gives the city a chance to further enhance its position as a pathfinder in the use of new urban technologies as well as new forms of local governance.”

6 – Milton Keynes (72.5)

NR: “Milton Keynes was one of the first UK cities to make a strong commitment to develop and promote smart city technology. It is now establishing itself as a primary location to trial and test new city technologies and is successfully attracting investment from IoT companies and other innovators looking to exploit this emerging market. The close collaboration between Milton Keynes Council and The Open University is another important element in the programme, enabling the testing of emerging technologies and the rigorous assessment of realised benefits. The future challenge is to exploit the most successful solutions on a wider scale and to link even more closely the innovations of MK:Smart with the developing long-term strategy for the city.”

7 – Leeds (70.5)

NR: “Leeds has established itself as one of the cities driving smart city development in the UK. Its strategy for the city’s development until 2030 sets a coherent and ambitious framework for its smart city projects, in particular its open data strategy. As with many cities, the challenge is find the means to scale up its most successful projects and to encourage continued innovation in a wider range of services. Leeds was one of the shortlisted cities for the IoT Demonstrator award, which it was hoping would boost several of its digital innovation projects. It now has to find alternative approaches to ensure it stays in the leading group for smart city innovation.”

8 – Peterborough (68.2)

NR: “Since its inception, the smart city programme in Peterborough has had an emphasis on producing benefits for the community and small businesses rather than on simply trialling the latest technology. Encouraging local involvement and collaboration from both citizens and business entities is a recurring theme.

“Peterborough’s initial strategy paper laid a strong foundation for its smart city programme with its comprehensive view of future goals and key projects. In general, it is taking a pragmatic approach to identifying projects with a strong community base and has prioritized delivering practical benefits over purely technology-focused pilots. The city has also established a realistic approach to funding and has made good use of its Future Cities award. Its success and its innovative approach to the circular economy were acknowledged internationally at the end of 2015 when it won the Smart City of the Year award at the Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona.”

9 – Nottingham (51.8)

NR: “A core element of Nottingham City Council’s strategy has been to maintain public ownership and control of infrastructure and assets. It has already had success with its city-owned energy company, public transport innovations, and social housing programmes. Nottingham can build on this foundation and its EU-funded pilot projects to develop a distinct vision for a UK smart city based on energy and transport innovation. However, it would be good to see a more coherent vision for how these initiatives come together in an overall smart city plan. It will also be interesting to see how Nottingham’s approach is able to support development from demonstration projects to wider deployments.”

10 – Sheffield (38.1)

NR: “Sheffield has made a start with the establishment of an initial vision for its evolution into a smart city. The new Sheffield Plan outlines some of the digital and technical innovations needed to support a smart city vision but there is little detail currently available. There is an opportunity for the city to make stronger links between its broader strategy and the potential for smart city innovations, as is being explored in the Smart City Lab. There are also opportunities to build on open data and data analytics projects across the public sector. However, further progress will be hampered without clearer leadership and coordination across Sheffield’s smart city activities.”

To download the full report, visit and register at www.navigantresearch.com/research/uk-smart-cities-index

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