Two years in a day: showcasing our project at the CityVerve Marketplace

We’re known for being an inventive bunch here at CityVerve, but when faced with the time-bending challenge of fitting two years into a single day, I must admit I was initially a little stumped.

We began this project just a little under two years ago, and kicked it off with grand ambitions.

Those ambitions have only continued to burn brighter, and condensing the thousands of hours of work that have gone into making our project a success into a single showcase event felt like a mammoth task.

But, last week, we did just that. And more than 200 people were there to soak it all in at the CityVerve Marketplace.

Plenty to celebrate

The morning kicked off with a cheer, as we were able to announce that the night before, CityVerve had taken home the Smart City gong at the Connected Britain awards.

Rowena Burns, chair at Manchester Science Partnerships, then took the stage to deliver what she called a “helicopter view” of the project.

Outlining the four key theme areas – Travel & Transport, Health & Social Care, Energy & Environment, and Culture & Public Realm – Rowena reflected on the important role that collaboration had played not only in the city’s successful bid for Innovate UK’s funding, but in the success of the project as a whole.

This idea of the city that’s greater than the sum of its parts also underpinned by the Leader of Manchester City Council, Sir Richard Leese’s, reflections on the project. “We might not be the biggest city,” he said, “but in Manchester we know that if you can’t compete on scale then it means you need to be smart – and that is what CityVerve is all about.”

He went on to speak about the increasingly connected, integrated and sustainable way in which people live their lives today – outlining the challenges this shift has posed to city authorities, and then celebrating the way in which Manchester (and CityVerve) has risen to these challenges.

Ultimately, though, he said the real test of CityVerve’s legacy will be how far it can spread the “creativity that has been unleashed over the last two years” throughout the world.

A look to the future

Bev Taylor, who has headed up the Energy & Environment theme, had an eye on the wider world and its future too.

She came with a stark message of the need to address global environmental issues before resource depletion and climate impact can further exacerbate political tensions around the world.

Smart cities, Bev argued, can be at the foundation of solutions to these challenges.

The work we do today, said Bev, and the strides being taken to make our cities more efficient, environmentally-focused places will be vital in securing a more peaceful future.

Innovate UK’s Jonny Voon agreed, but suggested we do away with the term ‘smart city’. “Cities should be smart as standard: they should just work for people without having to think about how things happen,” he said, also echoing Sir Richard’s wishes that Manchester be treated as a pioneer from which other cities will learn.

A global showcase

Providing the opportunity for other cities to come, look and learn from what Manchester has achieved with CityVerve over the past two years was really what the CityVerve Marketplace was all about.

Visitors came from across the UK and further afield – a delegation from South Korea passed through in the afternoon – to try out the various demos on offer throughout Citylabs 1.0, our showcase venue for the day.

They were treated to everything from VR bike rides around the city, to trying out a smart inhaler, a walkthrough of the Platform of Platforms, and demonstrations of how AR technology has been used to connect visitors to the city with vital services (and a history lesson with the City of Firsts walking tour).

Elsewhere, there was the opportunity to see a demo version of one of the CityVerve-commissioned artworks from last year, Naho Matsuda’s ‘every thing every time’, and take a virtual tour of the CityVerve project thanks to some clever work by the team at Ordnance Survey and Clicks + Links.

Honest reflections, and more open collaboration

Meanwhile, a series of breakout sessions took place with each theme lead covering some of the key lessons learned from the work they’ve overseen in the past two years.

Cisco’s Nick Chrissos, in his role as Programme Delivery Director for CityVerve, also took the opportunity to reflect on the overall delivery of the project. He said that one of the most eye-opening discoveries for him – among the many challenges in project management – was the power of artworks to communicate the power and potential of technology in a more approachable way.

The day ended, perhaps fittingly, with a showcase from the finalists of our Open Innovation challenges.

Each start-up presented a sharp, well-honed five-minute pitch to the partners, theme leads, mentors and remaining Marketplace attendees.

The work that each team has done over the past eight, intensive weeks is testament to the spirit of innovation underpinning the whole CityVerve project.

Our consortium-driven approach has always been about bringing together partners from across a broad spectrum – including business, academia, government organisations and agile start-ups – to see what can be achieved when everyone works together towards a common purpose.

The Open Innovation challenges have embodied this mentality, as well as the passion with which every aspect of the CityVerve project has been undertaken.

As we approach the final days of our two-year run, and think about ensuring a lasting legacy for the project, it’s worth taking the time to reflect on what a huge amount has been achieved in CityVerve. And, despite the challenge of squeezing it all in to just eight daylight hours, the CityVerve Marketplace was an ample opportunity to do just that.

Images in collage via Sam Morrey – one of our Citizen Journalists; check out more of his photos here.

June 27, 2018 in Events

Tune in to CityCast, the smart cities podcast from CityVerve