Case Study – United Kingdom: The Future Cities Catapult

Future cities catapult

The Catapult network is a new technology and innovation initiative developed by the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK, to help encourage economic growth and differentiation among British cities and businesses.

The network has seven technology and innovation centres (“Catapult Centres”) around the United Kingdom, each of which is focused around specific industries:

  • High Value Manufacturing (located at multiple sites)
  • Cell Therapy (London)
  • Offshore Renewable Energy (Glasgow and Blyth)
  • Satellite Applications (Harwell)
  • Connected Digital Economy (London)
  • Transport Systems (Milton Keynes)
  • Future Cities (London).

Each centre offers British businesses an opportunity to work with academia, scientists and engineers on late-stage research and development, to access state-of–the-art large-scale equipment and facilities, and to transform high-potential ideas into new products and services. Each catapult centre has been operational since 2014, and together the centres represent over £1.4 billion ($2.1 billion) in private and public-sector investment, transforming the UK’s longterm innovation capability.

Over £6.5 trillion ($9.9 trillion) will be invested globally in city infrastructure over the next 10–15 years, and the accessible market for integrated city systems is estimated to be £200 billion ($303 billion) a year by 2030. However, the market is still nascent. Innovative approaches to “city making” are still struggling, hampered by poor procurement processes, inadequate financing mechanisms and institutional silos.

The Future Cities Catapult (FCC) is playing a lead role in the United Kingdom to overcome these barriers, build a vibrant market for innovative urban solutions, stimulate capacity building, attract and develop talent, and support business and economic growth. The FCC aims to help British businesses exploit the emerging market by bringing business, city governments and academia together to collaborate and develop new innovative city services that focus on overcoming the challenges of urbanization.

By offering an independent space where experts from across disciplines can collaborate, the FCC enables cities, companies and universities to work alongside the private sector to remove barriers to innovation and develop solutions that meet the future needs of the world’s cities. The aim of the FCC is to develop globally replicable and exportable solutions that will help further grow the British economy.

At the heart of the innovation centre at the catapult is the cities lab, a world-leading facility where live city data is analysed and solutions to city challenges are tested and validated using innovative data-visualization techniques. This data is taken from across multiple city silos and presented in new ways, clearly demonstrating the value of cross-sector ways of working, showing how the FCC focuses on the integration of systems, and highlighting the way this collaboration helps create opportunities for better performance and greater value.

Furthermore, by combining skills across disciplines, the FCC enables cities in the UK to work across agencies to experiment with and build capacity for new ways of delivering and designing integrated city solutions and services. Collaborative ventures, research combining the private sector and academia, and demonstration projects in the market develop and accelerate access to a broad range of world-class skills and knowledge relevant to the needs of future cities. Establishing a world-class science and research base that supports the development of innovative urban solutions, therefore, develops talent in and attracts talent to the UK.

For more information see the site of Future Cities Catapult.

*) Featured image: Berit Watkin (cc)

**)This case study is an extract of the World Economic Forum report:The Future of Urban Development & Services: Urban Development Recommendations for the Government of India and was written by Alice Charles, Cities & Urban Development Expert, Urban Development Lead, World Economic Forum & External Board Member, NAMA

Alice Charles


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