Scotland's Agenda for Cities

Scotland's Agenda for Cities sets out the Scottish Government’s strategic framework for its future interaction with Scotland’s cities.

Section 3 - Boosting Innovation

Scotland's cities sit at the heart of our nation's knowledge economy. They are home to many high-growth and internationally-competitive economic sectors and to world-leading academic institutions. Our colleges and universities are key players in the local and national economies, major employers, creators of new businesses, generators of innovation which leads to business growth, and catalysts for inward investment. As such, they play an important part in city region partnerships.

Our focus will be to:

  • seek opportunities for cities to be Smart City early-adopters
  • work with our cities to lead can-do public service innovation with businesses and citizens
  • ensure that all our decisions are informed by making the best use of data

In doing this, we will seek to build on the knowledge base in our colleges and universities.

3.1 Seeking opportunities for cities to be Smart City early-adopters

The diversity of Scotland's seven cities provides both strength and opportunity. Our smaller cities create a scale that is particularly suited to trying out new ideas, while a collaborative approach allows successful ideas to seed and spread rapidly.

Already we have produced a self-assessment framework which established each city's smart priorities. The results of this work have been used to develop a city-wide Investment Roadmap. £10 million of European Regional Development Funding has been allocated to progress a collaborative smart cities programme, and match funding from the cities takes the programme total to
£24 million. The Alliance's smart cities work stream uses the knowledge developed by Glasgow's Future City Demonstrator to help all of our cities become smarter.

The potential of Smart Cities

Smart Cities technology has the potential to help improve air quality and traffic flow, cut pollution and give planners new tools and insights into the way cities work. This will allow them to better prepare for the future, which will in turn improve the quality of life for everyone who lives and works in each city, and create opportunities for business innovation.

It has been shown that a Smart City approach makes public services more effective and efficient, and makes cities more attractive to investors. At the same time, it makes significant environmental improvements and helps achieve CO2 emission reduction targets. By working together, Scotland's cities are using economies of scale to learn individually, and then share that knowledge collectively, to ensure they are at the cutting edge of Smart City technology and the many benefits that it can bring.

In doing so, Scotland's cities can strongly position themselves to access investment, accelerate progress through learning, and identify innovations.

Building on this we will:

  • seek ways for the cities to be forerunners of approaches that help them deliver their ambitions
  • identify new ways to ensure that the Scottish business base has access to the opportunities this presents to test and commercialise new products
  • maximise the impact of our public sector procurement, and establish open forums to allow SMEs and young businesses to get the best possible opportunity to capitalise on this emerging market

Having already attracted interest for our Smart Cities work from countries such as China and Italy, our cities are ambitious to be part of a collaboration of world-leading cities in smart technology. Our cities are well on their way to achieving this, using a range of funding initiatives to build the data infrastructure required.

3.2 Leading can-do public service innovation with businesses and citizens

Visionary, inclusive city leadership is a key factor in the success of cities around the world. The most effective leaders will harness the ideas and energy of innovative businesses and citizens. The requirements of city region level partnerships, and national level collaboration through the Alliance, make big demands on our city leaders. Nurturing that leadership has the potential to transform our public services for the benefit of citizens and businesses alike.

"... we will give strong support to the enterprise and innovation that will boost our productivity, increase our economic growth and create the skilled jobs we need for the future. ... But our success won't come just from entrepreneurs or scientists. I want to see a can-do culture define us as a country on every level. ... as well as supporting new business, we will also be innovative in how we equip our public services for the future."

Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister,
New Year message 2016

Already our city leaders have developed and shared their vision for Scotland's cities, and they are in the vanguard of exploring how new powers for local authorities can help deliver better outcomes for businesses and citizens. They have collaborated through the Alliance, and individually have led city region partnerships and worked to secure significant City Region Deals. They have embedded the private sector into city region deals to ensure that this expertise can benefit regional economies.

Building on this we will:

  • continue to find ways to support our cities to engage at the most strategic level with the Scottish Government and its agencies
  • work, as appropriate, to maximise the effectiveness of both individual and collaborative city engagement with the UK Government and with the EU
  • ensure that innovative businesses get opportunities to contribute to regional economies
  • explore the Enabling Collaborative Leadership Pioneer programme with Workforce Scotland and identify whether it may benefit the Alliance or the cities separately

Scottish cities, and all local authorities, already hold wide ranging powers including the Power to Advance Well-Being. However, we know that they seek more powers. We will continue to work with them to understand ambitions which are beyond the scope of their existing powers, and what is needed to support delivery of better outcomes. In committing to this, we recognise that our cities present Scotland with unique opportunities. However, we will balance these alongside the needs of the city regions and the rest of Scotland too - towns, villages, rural and island Scotland - to ensure truly inclusive growth

3.3 Making best use of data

As the world enters an age of "big data", there is greater potential than ever before to see the big picture, to identify new patterns and explore possible relationships. The science of data analytics, which collects, cleans and uses raw data, can deliver innovative solutions to city problems, like traffic congestion.

Already our cities recognise the opportunity to use open[4] data, both across local authority boundaries and between different service providers, to:

  • drive improved services
  • support business innovation
  • assist in resilience-building and business transformation within local authorities

Building on this we will:

  • work with our cities to provide strategic leadership and encourage more open data sharing. The Alliance's work on the multi million pound Data Cluster will deliver progress on critical enabling data infrastructure across Scotland. This will include data community capacity building to support greater innovation from data
  • use our Open Data Training Pilot to enable capacity building and knowledge transfer across the public sector

"The potential uses for all this information are intriguing. Cities can regulate and improve traffic flows, monitor water resources, or manage a smart electricity grid, all with the information they need readily available in the moment."

Martine Durand in "Can big data deliver on its promise?" OECD Observer (2012)

Inverness infographic


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