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Innovating the sustainable city

We will need to find new, more sustainable ways to live in cities. In the UK, Bristol is pioneering green city living.

Peter Madden, Chief Executive of Future Cities Catapult, talks to Good Bristol


he future of our species will be in cities.

Across the world, we are currently witnessing the biggest rural-urban migration in the history of humankind. This will bring enormous opportunities; it will also bring huge challenges and pressures. We will need to find new, more sustainable ways to live in cities. In the UK, Bristol is pioneering green city living. This will bring direct benefits to the residents here in terms of better quality of life. And at the same time, it will open up opportunities for the businesses based in the city. The organisation I run, the Future Cities Catapult, is a new urban innovation centre. Based in London, and supported by the UK Government, our role is to bring together cities, universities and businesses, in collaboration, to meet the needs of cities. Given the scale of urban challenges in the UK and across the world, I believe that we can develop solutions that help our businesses grow – in architecture, engineering, building and information technology – and, at the same time, make cities better places. And by taking a lead in the UK, Bristol is positioning itself well to provide services to cities across the world. As well as having strengths in sustainability, Bristol boasts a strong information technology sector. We can harness this technology to help us meet city challenges. By end of this decade 26 billion devices will be on the Internet of Things. All these devices, in our phones, our objects, our buildings, mean we are creating ever more data.


summer 2014

Of all the data ever created in history, anywhere, 90% was generated in the last two years! All this data is like a new raw material with which we can innovate. It can help us to understand how cities function, in all their complexity, and help us make them better places to live. There are lots of opportunities to innovate ready to be exploited. If we know how resources flow and how infrastructure is used, we can be more efficient in the way we use and re-use materials; designing services, systems and products that are fit-for-purpose and built for recovery. Given that we have clouds of data, there is a great opportunity to analyse systemic city problems, make connections to reveal deep-rooted issues, and to avoid creating long-tem problems. If we put citizens at the heart of innovation, we can provide platforms for participation, engagement and collaboration. As individuals we have unprecedented access to technology: there are now more mobile phones than there are toilets on planet earth. Now is the time to act for the future city that we want; we can put the smart citizen at the heart of designing the smart city. These are the kinds of issues my organisation, Future Cities Catapult, is working on. Our vision is a world where every city has the products, services and expertise it requires to integrate its systems and future-proof itself, for the benefit of its citizens, economy and environment â–

Good Bristol Magazine Issue 2  
Good Bristol Magazine Issue 2