One of the four shortlisted UK cities in the Technology Strategy Board’s Future Cities Demonstrator competition, Peterborough in the East of England is the UK’s fastest growing city with infrastructure, issues and scale that are common across the UK. The city and its Peterborough DNA programme were awarded £3 million in March 2013 to develop and test innovative ideas and new technologies for how smart, future-proofed cities could work.
The Peterborough DNA programme was designed to harness the intrinsic integration of Peterborough’s assets. Its approach is to create a step-change in Peterborough’s approach to how a city functions, rather than simply adding layers of technology on top of everyday services. With ambitious interlinked objectives of growth, innovation and sustainability, the programme acts as a facilitator of an efficient and sustainable urban future.
Working in partnership has played a crucial role in the programme’s development. From its early stages the collaboration and cooperation between public sector bodies, businesses, government agencies, not-for-profit organisations, academic institutions and individuals has been fundamental to the programme’s successful development and implementation.
Now in the delivery stage, the programme follows this initial collaborative impulse by focusing on delivering what people want through four key strands of activity: Innovation; Sustainable Businesses; Skills for our Future; and Living Data.
The Innovation strand aims to create a unique hub for business innovation in order to identify and solve city challenges, provide new opportunities for local businesses and encourage innovation and entrepreneurial activity in the city. For example, the Brainwave Innovation Portal enables entrepreneurs, experts and innovative businesses to put forward their solutions to the city-scale challenges. It then ensures these ideas enter fruition by providing funding and access to an innovation hub to test and trial prototypes.
To improve sustainability and innovation the programme launched the ‘Smart Fengate’ project to create a smart business park and encourage local businesses to be sustainable, resilient and have low environmental impact. Engagement activities have brought together businesses across the Fengate area in order to ascertain the individual and collective challenges faced whilst looking for solutions locally. Crucially, this strand will seek to test-bed a range of solutions with the aim of developing the business case for ongoing action.
The ‘Skills for our Future’ strand boosts the supply of skills and local talent to tackle the growth and innovation objectives of emerging green markets and to respond to the city’s own sustainability challenges. The strand includes projects such as the Peterborough Graduate Scheme as well as offering bursaries to local students embarking on an MSc in Sustainability.
To highlight the challenges and opportunities of the city, the programme includes a ‘Living Data Portal’, which has been set up to gather data about population, health, waste, education. It brings data to life and provides an engaging tool for businesses, communities and public sector staff to better understand Peterborough.
The programme is showing that the city can think creatively and has accelerated a broader understanding of how different sectors in Peterborough can work together and focus their efforts on producing ideas for the development of a smarter, future city.