Newcastle plans to spearhead UK’s smart city revolution

The city of Newcastle is bidding to become a ‘world leader’ in construction technologies such as BIM, virtual reality, smart cities and cloud computing. In partnership with Northumbria University, tech initiative Dynamo is set to unveil plans for a £40 million centre that will see the North East lead the world in the development of smart city technology.

Plans for the IC3 project will be formally unveiled tonight at the House of Lords, with ministers and industry experts in attendance. Northumbria University vice chancellor Prof Andrew Wathey said: “Building information modelling, smart cities, sustainability and the digital industry will have the ability to come together to play a significant role in the economic future of the North East. This centre, building on core research strengths at Northumbria University, in association with other partners, will make a key contribution to this process. The new centre will establish the North East’s role in the global leadership and application of this work.”

Firms like NBS, Ryder and Space Group have put Newcastle and the rest of the North East at the global forefront of the technology and the region has hosted a national conference on BIM for the last two years. Dynamo chair Charlie Hoult said: “There is a huge opportunity for UK Plc to gain from leading the push for international standards in digital building – like the benefits we have from initiating Greenwich Mean Time or the English language dominating global trade. BIM has that potential to make the UK centre stage in an industry that accounts for easily 12% of the worldwide economy.

“The UK needs to push our economy’s overall productivity so any support for the digital transformation of the construction sector will help. We’ve not had a Spotify or Uber to disrupt traditional working practise in construction – but keep a watch on the 60 firms in the Dynamo Build cluster group in the North East, because several of these firms are growing fast and taking huge steps in connected construction.”

Technology hubs outside of London have been growing over the past few years, with many cities specialising in different niche areas. For example, Reading and Liverpool are leaders in the internet of things (IoT). Meanwhile Coventry and Aberdeen topped the leaderboard for manufacturing and Cardiff has also been identified as showing ‘early signs of an emerging virtual reality innovation cluster’.

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