Salford, in Greater Manchester, will launch the region’s first smart city accelerator in early spring 2020.
Sponsored by MediaCityUK–the country’s largest digital and creative cluster outside of London–the accelerator will be aimed at innovation companies which are looking to develop and demonstrate smart solutions for both build and environmental management.
“MediaCityUK is a fantastic living lab, or testbed, and so the smart city accelerator is the first flag in the sand if you like, the first starting point, for MediaCityUK’s journey as that smart city exemplar,” Jon Corner, Chief Digital Officer, Salford, told Cities Today.
The announcement was made during the release of Salford’s first digital strategy that will help “fix the digital plumbing” to establish the city as a leading digital economy and improve connectivity and outcomes for residents.
Key components involve tapping into city assets like Salford Royal research hospital, the university, and MediaCityUK.
Corner, who became Salford‘s first chief digital officer (CDO) in May 2018, said many of the ideas in the strategy were developed over his own 100-day CDO challenge.
“What I wanted to do during those 100 days was to find out what makes the city tick,” he told Cities Today. “The actual process of being the glue between these organisations is absolutely crucial for any digital officer. It’s not about building data lakes but is about connecting people together.”
He said fixing the digital plumbing is essential to collect all the city’s disparate data sets, run on different software platforms and different standards, that aren’t integrated or interoperable to then make them all work.
“Before we can truly consider how such smart technology can improve the quality of life for all people across Salford, we have to find ways to connect all of our physical spaces and communities,” he said. “Once this bedrock and these infrastructure models are in place then we can develop new services and co-design these within our communities.”
Through the new strategy the city aims to also address inequality and inclusion. According to the Index of Multiple Deprivation, Salford is the 22nd most deprived local authority area in the UK. A new “digital pipeline” will be created to build skills linked into new jobs.
An infrastructure prospectus will be published early in the new year after which the city will begin a “very robust” market engagement.
Corner added: “We area at the beginning of a journey to then find out how we can start to drive this plan forward and turn our strategy into operational KPI.”