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Holistic approach is key to unlocking Leeds City Region’s smart city potential

Leading figures from across the Leeds City Region have joined forces to promote the opportunities for global investors to capitalise on the region’s thriving smart cities sector.

Public and private partners from across Leeds and West Yorkshire made up the city region’s largest ever delegation to attend the 2019 Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona.

Organised by Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP), the delegation delivered a series of presentations highlighting the smart cities capabilities of businesses based in the region – the sector is estimated to contribute £6.5 billion to the national economy and employs 102,000 people.

Beauhurst’s Scale Up Index 2018 revealed that Leeds City Region has 209 scale ups attracting £108.8 million in venture capital, the most in the North by 82 per cent.

Roger Marsh OBE DL, Chair of the LEP and NP11 said: “Our status as a tech hub is growing and Smart City Expo provides the platform to share that message with international tech investors.

The presentations given by senior academics from Bradford, Leeds and Huddersfield universities showcased how tech is significantly transforming our region and increasing opportunities for collaboration. ’d like to thank our sponsors for their generous support to promote Leeds City Region, the UK’s digital heartland.” 

Leeds City Council joined the delegation as part of a drive to promote its Smart Leeds agenda. The council-led programme was created to identify and deliver new technologies to help bolster Leeds’ reputation as a smart city innovator.

Among the series of high profile sponsors for Leeds City Region was national law firm Shoosmiths, which has an established smart cities team of lawyers based in Leeds’ Platform building. The company sent a team of five smart city experts to Barcelona, including its head of technology in the North, Alex Kirkhope.

Alex said: “What was evident at this year’s expo is that there is significantly more engagement from global cities in the tangible benefits that smart city solutions can now deliver. In that context it was a testament to the breadth of smart city expertise in the Leeds City Region to be the only UK city region with a dedicated, large-scale presence at the event.

“While the benefits of smart city technologies are now widely acknowledged, organisations need to take this engagement to the next level and start to implement all of the various components in a holistic way.

“To achieve the transformation that smart city solutions can deliver, it’s crucial that the public and private bodies procuring and delivering these services do so with a ‘whole-system’ strategic outlook.

“This means considering how each element of the smart city can interact and interoperate with the city’s other systems and infrastructure, and from a data privacy perspective ensuring that all stakeholders have a clear understanding not only of the data that will be collected through these services, but how that data can be used.”

Shoosmiths was joined by client and smart city innovator Connexin at the expo. Earlier this year, Hull-based Connexin announced a new seven-year contract with Hull City Council to provide its smart city platform, CityOS, which will underpin the council’s smart city ambitions.

Rob Bullock, chief sales officer at Connexin, said: “The Leeds City Region is a hot bed for digital innovation in the North and it’s inspiring to see how the council continues to embrace the concept of creating an eco-system of partners within the public, private and education sectors to underpin the concept of being a smart city.

“Through a place-based, people first approach, data can be used to address challenges facing the region including those in housing, transportation and health and maximise the impact of new digital initiatives and ultimately make the region a great place to live, work and grow old.”

Connexin’s technology aims to ‘join the dots’ by transforming traditional physical assets into a connected digital network, although Rob highlights that technology is only an enabler.

He said: “Technology can address multiple challenges that a city faces but it will only succeed if it is underpinned by strong leadership, a clear strategy and a joined up approach to service delivery, the importance of these factors cannot be underestimated.

“Communication is a core fundamental for any smart city. Councils that foster a culture of two-way communication will create stronger communities with engaged citizens, who are more likely to provide rich insights back to the authorities that support an iterative approach to improving the lives of people in the region.”

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