Vision of UK cities gets smarter

The UK’s housing and transport problems are prompting innovative solutions, with the Smart Cambridge approach – – now being adopted on a wider scale.

Leading thinkers in urban infrastructure recently came together as part of the Future Cities Dialogue project, organised by Forum for the Future, Innovate UK, Sciencewise and Ipsos Mori, to discuss the future of the growing population, and the challenges of supporting a growing population in cities – and the conclusion is that by 2040 infrastructure design will be a whole lot smarter.

The event coincided with a recent report which highlights three visions of what our cities could look like in 20 years, exploring current trends and challenges in urban development. A substantial amount of information came from citizens opinion on the types of cities they would like to live in.

By 2040, an estimated 70% of people will be living in urban areas, and so city infrastructure and design will need to drastically change in order to better support its citizens.

James Goodman, director of Futures, Forum for the Future, said: “The year 2040 will be radically different from today. The population in the UK will be 74 million, climate change will have progressed and food production will have needed to increase between 50 and 80%.

“In that landscape, the role of cities is critical because it is where ideas are formed and implemented.”

Sophie Thomas, founding director of Thomas Matthews and the former director of Circular Economy for Royal Society of Arts, said: “How are people going to live in these cities? What is the density? That is not going to feel like London and the other cities we know now. Where is all the public space going to go? This is what we really need to be thinking about and what the infrastructure needs to focus on. Where is my 10-year-old going to play football?”

Rob Whitehead, head of strategy, Future Cities Catapult, added: “The key question is how do we manage the public interest versus the private interest? My optimistic side feels that the promise of what we have ahead of us, is that together we can find better, smarter ways of balancing our interests as a whole in a much more responsive and fine-tuned way then we do now.”

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