Nesta urges IoT demonstrator winner to ‘open up problem-solving’

16 Dec 2015, 11:59 am

The_River_IrwellNesta, the charity that helps to invest and demonstrate new ideas, has called on Manchester to engage a wide spectrum of people and organisations in its Internet of Things demonstrator project which recently won a national £10 million prize. 

The advice was given by Senior Researcher, International Innovation at Nesta Tom Saunders in a blog post called ‘Four tips on how to run a pilot smart city project.’

“Typically, smart city pilots are run by ‘experts’ in large technology companies or city hall,” writes Saunders. “But experts don’t have a monopoly on the best ideas. Opening up problem-solving to SMEs, residents and civil society can often lead to much more innovative outcomes.”

The article focuses on how Manchester can get the best from its investment and draws on research from Nesta, ‘Rethinking smart cities from the ground up,’ published last Summer. The report examined how cities around the world are using data and technology to address the challenges they face, with a particular focus on the role that digital technologies can play in enabling cooperation between city governments and their citizens.

Besides calling on Manchester to open up participation, the article suggests that the project should generate and share evidence, invest in smart people as well as technology and engage citizens.

Saunders writes: “As investment and interest in smart cities continues to grow, the concept needs to evolve, from proprietary technology and processes to open innovation, from ‘technology push’ to solutions based on the challenges that cities face, and from top down systems to collaborative innovation, involving citizens, SMEs and civil society in defining and addressing the issues that matter to them in their cities.

“Done well, the Internet of Things pilot in Manchester could go a long way towards achieving these goals.”

Manchester beat 21 entries involving 34 cities across the UK in the competition from Government’s Innovate UK and the Department for Communities and Local Government. The CityVerve project, led by the Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership, plans to install sensors across the city, to prove that so-called Internet of Things technology can address challenges that cities face. The project will cover healthcare, transport, energy and environment, and culture and community.


Image: “The River Irwell” Manchester by Plentyofants on Flickr. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.