UK primed to “take advantage” of £200bn global future cities market

Future Cities Catapult study says UK is leading the way in urban innovation

The UK is well placed to capitalise upon the estimated £200bn global future cities market with a “rich ecosystem” for urban innovation, according to a new report from the government’s Future Cities Catapult Centre.

Produced in association with UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), the report How can the UK innovate for the world’s cities? suggests there are now over 32,000 businesses in the UK looking to improve the way cities plan and operate, such as London travel app CityMapper and Spacehive; an online crowdfunding platform for public developments.

Other ‘urban innovators’ mentioned in the report include Milton-Keynes Internet of Things (IoT) hub MKSmart which is experimenting with connected devices, and Liverpool’s Chrysalis Fund which is investing finance into the city’s regeneration.

The study claims that the growth of these ventures, combined with the country’s increasing number of engineering firms, urban designers, and research programmes, makes the UK ready to “tackle the challenges posed by the huge scale of urbanisation worldwide”.

Future cities activity across the UK is said to already be worth over £16bn and the report outlines that “innovation” is currently underway in various regions:


The Technology Strategy Board has invested £24m into Glasgow City Council’s smart city programme to help find solutions to problems within the area. Pilot projects include intelligent street lighting and an open data platform.


In central Newcastle there is a new “urban quarter” under development which will act as a demonstration site for new “innovative” technologies and will look to build Newcastle’s reputation as a science and tech hub. The quarter will involve collaboration from Newcastle University.

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Greater Manchester

Manchester is currently trialling a new open infrastructure platform using new datasets which has started in Manchester City, Salford, and Trafford and aims to improve city services and reduce council costs. It builds on Manchester’s large concentration of “computing talent” with over 5,000 graduates each year.


Birmingham has established a ‘Smart Cities Roadmap’ with the goal to support the implementation of smart city technologies and the launch of a ‘Smart Cities Commission’.


The 2015 ‘European Green Capital’, Bristol is investing £140m in energy efficiency and renewable energy to cut costs and carbon emissions. Recently, it has piloted several smart tech solutions such as smart grids and smart metering.


The report says London is a “global hub” for urban innovation as it houses some of the top architecture firms such as Foster and Partners and Roger Stirk and Partners, as well as leading engineering and infrastructure firms such as Balfour Beatty and Arup. London also boasts an impressive list of research firms ranging from top universities such as UCL and Imperial College, to not-for-profit organisations such as NESTA and The Centre for Cities. Key examples of urban development sites include the Olympic Park, Wood Wharf, and Nine Elms.

Future Cities Catupult chief executive, Peter Madden, discussed the findings: “The UK already has an incredible number of individuals and organisations working to improve the future of our cities.

“[There is an] incredible opportunity for the UK to create more jobs, more revenue and to help solve some of the world’s most pressing problems.”


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