CityVerve: Why the time is right for a smarter Manchester

Ask anyone in Manchester about where to look for a view of the future and they’re likely to give you the same answer: Manchester.

I don’t believe this is due to an unfounded loyalty or belief in the city they call home. Over the course of its 163 year history, since being granted city status in 1853, Manchester has kick-started many of the world’s most revolutionary inventions and has even in the past been nominated by UNESCO for World Heritage status.

Yet the Manchester we know and love today is a very different place than it was then. As much as any other city I know it has a forward-looking and pioneering approach that sets it apart, and its people have a collaborating spirit to ensure the city continues to evolve into the future.

CityVerve is an important next step in this journey.

From a research and development perspective, Manchester has a strong emphasis on the Internet of Things (IoT) and smart technologies. Strong existing relationships between the city, local businesses and our universities and hospitals mean that we are already sharing ideals and engaging in conversations about how we can improve this city and others across the UK.

The Corridor Manchester Innovation District, where I am chair of the board, is a prime example of where this is happening at scale. Working across healthcare, transport, infrastructure and skills development, our aim is to create a space for people to work, learn and socialise – while contributing to the city’s economic growth and social and cultural dynamism.

Next year, Corridor Manchester will celebrate its tenth birthday.  I believe that the progress made over the past decade has been vital in establishing our city as the ideal environment to test new ideas for improving city life.

Simply put, the time is right for Manchester – and for CityVerve.

Powered by people

What really excites me about this project is its focus on people and the potential benefits to be realised for Mancunians living in the vicinity.

I want us to answer questions like  ‘What can this technology do for me? How can my life be enhanced by access to new services?’ rather than ‘What can this technology do?’

CityVerve recognises the power of engaging people and businesses to make IoT tangible for everyone. The technology that will be deployed is fascinating and ground-breaking in its own right, but it’s the people that will benefit from it that can – and will – be the real focus here.

A key example of this, which as a physiologist I’m watching closely, is the potential to transform health and social care delivery.

Earlier this year, devolution of NHS spending made Manchester the first region in England to gain control of its own health and social care budgets. The most interesting aspect of this is not that the money has been devolved, it’s the fact that health and social care budgets are now under the same control. With this coordination and realisation of synergies, providing real benefits to people’s everyday lives becomes ever more achievable.

The combination of CityVerve with health devolution creates a unique opportunity to provide an even greater level of care.

Initiatives such as Connected Health Cities and this year’s Salford Lung Study (a world first) are evidence of what can be achieved when multiple organisations use technology to collaborate more effectively.

A smarter city for everyone

Extending this inclusive approach beyond health and social care will be essential too. Manchester is among the UK’s most cosmopolitan cities and boasts one of its youngest populations. It makes sense to draw insight from all corners of the city and the plan has always been to get as many active participants involved as possible.

CityVerve’s aim is to do this through community engagement programmes as well as through enabling local businesses of all shapes and sizes to participate fully. The opportunity with the CityVerve project is to use the city as a proper test-bed for future facing solutions that can be taken as a blueprint for other cities across the UK and beyond.

I have no doubt that Manchester is ready for this change and that its citizens are ready to get behind a smarter and more innovative city. As our history has proved already, we’ve always been proud to lead the way.

Picture credit: National Graphene Institute – Cabinet Office – via Flickr

June 26, 2016 in Opinion

Tune in to CityCast, the smart cities podcast from CityVerve