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|Tran Quoc Thai, deputy director of the Ministry of Construction’s Urban Development Agency, looked at smart city development in the United Kingdom|
The emergence of city habitats in the history of human civilisation has always been attached with a significant breakthrough in every period of development, be it the ancient Indus Valley fortified city, the British-led industrial revolution of the 18th century, or the smart city developments of the present day. On the other hand, cities have also always been desperate for innovation, so that they can create sound development in this flat and hyper-connected world.
Realisation of smart city endeavours would bring about tremendous new business opportunities in many walks of life, from industrial innovations to optimisation of traditional age-old urban operations. That would need different insights and means to facilitate new startups.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, a ministerial department of the UK government, is sponsoring UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the national funding agency in investing in science and research in Britain. Operating across the whole of the UK with a combined budget of more than £6 billion ($7.7 billion), UKRI brings together the seven research councils, Innovate UK and Research England.
Innovate UK drives productivity and economic growth by supporting businesses to develop and realise the potential of new ideas, including those from the UK’s world-class research base. Innovate UK is an organisation of around 500 staff, drawn mainly from businesses working across the UK. They have clear but challenging responsibilities. These include connecting businesses to partners, customers and investors that can help them turn ideas into commercially-successful products and services and business growth; and providing funds to business and research collaborations to accelerate innovation and drive business investment into research and development (R&D).
Since 2007, Innovate UK has invested around £2.5 billion ($3.21 billion) to help businesses across UK to innovate, with matched funding from industry taking the total value of projects above £4.3 billion ($5.52 billion). They have helped 8,500 organisations create around 70,000 jobs and added an estimated £18 billion ($23.12 billion) of value to the UK economy. This was about £7.3 ($9.38) of gross value added for every £1 ($1.28) invested. To undertake the responsibilities, Innovate UK set out a Catapult centres network. Catapult centres are a network of world-leading centres designed to transform the UK’s capability for innovation in specific areas and help drive future economic growth.
They are a series of physical centres where the very best of the UK’s businesses, scientists and engineers work side-by-side on late-stage R&D, transforming high potential ideas into new products and services to generate economic growth. Each Catapult centre does this by providing access to expert technical capabilities, equipment, and other resources required to take innovative ideas from concept to reality. Catapults are not-for-profit, independent physical centres which connect businesses with the UK’s research and academic communities. Each Catapult centre specialises in a different area of technology, but all offer a space with the facilities and expertise to enable businesses and researchers to collaboratively solve key problems and develop new products and services on a commercial scale.
Whether a business is in need of a new manufacturing process, a fresh approach to digital rights protection, or a new way of balancing energy demands in a future city environment, Catapults can help them. Future Cities Catapult is one among 10 different focus areas, being located in London.
Cities across the UK have seen more than £250 million ($321.16 million) public and private investment in solutions to improve urban living. Innovate UK awarded £50,000 ($64,231) each to 30 cities and challenged them to show how they could work with businesses and partners on new technologies in areas such as transport, housing, health, energy and pollution.
The best package was designed by Scotland’s biggest city of Glasgow, which won a further £24 million ($30.83 million) to become a demonstration future city. Future Cities Catapult collaborates with and matches industry, cities and government, and academia to define, create, test, and sell products and services for cities. Considered as an advanced service sector which is already worth £5 billion ($6.42 billion), they are working to position the UK as a leader in this emerging global market.
Sustainable smart city initiative in Vietnam
Vietnam’s cities are facing a number of challenges in the due course of rapid development. That could be broadly grouped into two major types of internal and external challenges. The context of 4.0 city governance has changed the strategic relationship between city administrators and its inhabitants from service provider in the early days to become a development partnership in the present day.
To take in the advantages of smart city approaches, the National Scheme for Sustainable Smart City Development in Vietnam to 2025 and vision to 2030 was approved by the prime minister in August 2018. Promotion of sustainable smart cities would bring about a promising new area of business.
First of all, there is the issue of building up a database for the city. Hardware and software solutions would be needed to tackle the diversify urbanisation scenarios throughout the country.
Second, digitalising the urban planning process would be another new challenging area. It calls for input and support to improve the reformation process of urban development forecast and planning. Monitoring of the implementation process would also be an essential part to reflect needs and voices of the communities.
Third, urban management and responding to the urban need in a timely manner could be a very large but unexplored area.
Last but not the least, immense facilities and amenities could be served out, either public or private, with unlimited geographical boundaries.
In order to implement that, the national scheme calls for 10 groups of tasks in which improving research potential, promoting innovation, and creating a strong link between research, academia and business are a central solution. The question here is how our city can be the most appropriate bed for innovation, and how can we make our city generate innovation better than any other?
The national scheme has also asked the Ministry of Science and Technology to develop the National Focus Research Programme for Smart Cities which could also provide much-needed resources for implementation of innovation and invention in the field.
The example of Future Cities Catapult clearly shows that it is essential to devise an appropriate executive body which is a combination of business, academia and researchers in order to promote innovation.