Belfast to stage new smart city challenge for SMEs

City council throws focus on innovation in calling for proposals on improving collaboration around key issues

Belfast City Council has given its Smart Belfast initiative a fresh push with the launch of a competition for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to come up with proposals for new approaches to dealing with issues facing the city.

Belfast City HallIt includes an emphasis on the creation of networks to work on the challenges and building public data assets as an economic resource.

The council is planning the official launch of the Smart Belfast Collaborative Challenge on 26 September, with an initial offer of £25,000 to support proposals for up to eight networks to develop innovation in five areas: urban transport, the visitor experience, the circular economy, active living and the management of the public estate.

It said that more substantial funding may be made available for any proposals that show the potential for business growth.

The challenge will take place within the Smart Belfast framework, which includes the building of city data assets, for which there is a growing demand from digital SMEs to create new products and services. The council said that partners need to develop more sophisticated ways of generating, managing and storing public data safely and securely.

The framework has three other prime aims: building a shared understanding of city challenges; developing an engaged innovator community; and creating robust delivery mechanisms.

Burgeoning market

“We believe this will be an exciting opportunity for those businesses seeking to innovate in the burgeoning smart city market which most commentators agree is likely to offer substantial business development potential over the coming decade,” the council said.

It has also been running a series of demonstrator projects to build up its smart city capability. These include a competition run in co-operation with the Small Business Research Initiative to use machine learning and data analytics in finding sources for non-domestic rates.

There are also projects on revenue rates forecasting, the development of city dashboard to track changes on a number of indicators, the generation of open data and the extension of free Wi-Fi around the city centre.

Image: Belfast City Hall by Wknight94 (own work), CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons