£16billion and growing fast: new report finds huge market opportunity for UK in urban innovation

A new report, released by the Future Cities Catapult, highlights how the UK’s unique business, government and academic capabilities mean it is best placed to take advantage of the estimated £200billion global market for products and services which improve the way cities are planned and operated. The Future Cities Catapult predicts that accelerating this momentum would lead to more jobs, more revenue and the opportunity to solve some of the world’s biggest challenges for the UK.

The prediction comes ahead of the launch of a new report, “How can the UK innovate for the world’s cities?” which, for the first time, defines the scale and depth of the future cities capability in the UK.

The report reveals that over 32,000 enterprises across the UK are already involved in providing innovation solutions to the challenges posed by the huge scale and pace of urbanisation worldwide. There are now more than 400,000 architects, civil engineers and urban designers working in the UK with the expertise to provide solutions for the world’s cities. In addition, there are many others, including data analysts, software developers, academics and financial and business services professionals working in future cities related occupations. It is estimated that the future cities activity is already worth over £16billion to the UK.

The report, produced by the Future Cities Catapult and Arup, and in association with UK Trade & Investment , also sets out the UK’s strengths in the future cities market including its heritage in urban planning and reinvention, its commercial expertise in managing large scale urban projects, its digital and creative industries combined with its fast growing digital expertise and its track record in developing world leading standards for, among other areas, urban design and open data.

Commenting on the report, Peter Madden CEO, Future Cities Catapult said:

“The UK already has an incredible number of individuals and organisations working to improve the future of our cities. Building on this rich ecosystem – of architects, engineers, data scientists, designers, ethnographers, planners, urbanists, and many more – provides an incredible opportunity for the UK to create new businesses, new jobs, and new solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems.

“We already have future cities industry sector in the UK that is worth over £16 billion. With the global market for integrated urban solutions worth around £200 billion, we can build on current momentum, grow our capability, and seize this growing global opportunity.”

As well as plotting the scale of the UK’s capabilities, the report also identifies where in the UK innovation is taking place. It reveals that, in addition to London, cities including Bristol, Birmingham, Newcastle and Manchester are all at the forefront of developing products and services for cities globally. For example, London-based Space Syntax uses urban data, spatial technology and predictive analytics to forecast the effects of planning and design decisions on the movement and interaction of people. A university spin-off, it has provided strategic consultancy services to a wide range of clients, including property investors and developers, public municipalities, community groups and building operators.

The Future Cities Catapult is a global centre of excellence on urban innovation. It brings together people, businesses and universities to develop the solutions cities need for a strong economy, resilient environment and an improved quality of life. It is one of seven independent Catapult Centres set up by, and with initial funding from the Technology Strategy Board.

Keith Clarke, former CEO of WS Atkins, one of the world’s leading design, engineering and project management consultancies and Future Cities Catapult board member said:

“The well organised societies with deep institutional, technical and financial strength will undoubtedly adapt their cities to the accelerating effects of climate change. The UK in fact is ideally positioned with its deep academic skills, institutional strength, engineering depth and its own world leading Climate Change Act, to not only adapt to climate change but actually more importantly, mitigate to ensure we stay closer to 2 degrees than the horrendous scenarios of 3 degrees plus. It is a revolution of a type we have never seen before with all the enormous opportunities for creative and progressive development of systems, technologies and society that such revolutions bring.

“Climate change adaptation will be achieved by the strong and wealthy. The trick is whether the UK with its abundance of skills can lead to not only ensuring adaptation but mitigation towards a 2 degree world rather than the wholly divisive and cataclysmic 3 degree plus world. This is an enormous opportunity for the UK to export a variety of its strengths.”

The report was produced by The Future Cities Catapult and Arup, in association with UKTI. Robert Driver, Director, Information Economy, UKTI, said,

“This report shows the huge amount of innovative work that UK companies and organisations are doing in developing our cities for the future. The challenge now is to ensure that this national expertise fully exploits the considerable opportunities that exist in the international market place. This is where UK Trade & Investment can provide assistance, both in terms of trade and inward investment support.”

Supporting quantitative analysis on UK business activity was provided by The Work Foundation.