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Sunderland named smart city of the year

The UK city won top place in the national Digital Leaders 100 Awards and was recognised for prioritising digital transformation for the wider benefit and creating opportunities for communities and businesses alike.

Patrick Melia: Sunderland is determined to become a leading UK smart city
Patrick Melia: Sunderland is determined to become a leading UK smart city

The UK city of Sunderland has been named smart city of the year in a national competition recognising digital leaders across a number of sectors.


The Digital Leaders 100 (DL100) Awards are organised by the Digital Leaders initiative and seek to highlight the UK’s digital transformation champions. Each year’s list is created from nominations submitted by members of the Digital Leaders’ 120,000-strong community before being shortlisted by the DL100 judges.


Sunderland City Council earned the top smart city prize ahead of Smart Cardiff and Stockport Council which won through to the final round. The other cities and local authorities in the top 10 were Bolton Council, Dundee Council, East Staffordshire Borough Council, Edinburgh City Council, Gateshead Council, Smart Belfast and Wakefield Council.


Digital transformation


The award recognises cities and areas that have prioritised digital transformation for the wider benefit, providing an array of services and creating opportunities for communities and businesses alike.


Patrick Melia, chief executive at Sunderland City Council, said: “I am extremely proud that our smart city has been identified for its forward-thinking approach, recognising Sunderland’s determination to become the UK’s leading smart city.”


“Our ambitious plans have forged many technological partnerships between the council, businesses, educators and other specialists; all of which are enabling digital growth across the city. We know that our sustainable and smart technologies will enable the city to overcome both economic and social challenges for years to come.”


Melia continued: “Our digital agenda is not only making a huge difference in our city, to see that our collaborative efforts are being recognised at a national level shows the wider impact of these achievements, positioning Sunderland as an extraordinary place to live, work and play.”


“From appearing in the DL100 shortlist earlier this year to now claiming the number one position, illustrates the fast pace at which we are driving projects across Sunderland to embed an augmented digital infrastructure, which will continue to be key to our recovery from the current Covid-19 pandemic,” he added.


Sunderland City Council’s smart city programme is led by Liz St Louis, assistant director of smart cities. Outcomes and successes to date, include: 

  • upgrades to vital digital infrastructure connecting the city through the continuing rollout of free ultrafast public wi-fi with download speeds surpassing the first 5G cities
  • local school, Hudson Road Primary, speeds increased from 13Mb to over 650Mb, enabling virtual teaching and on-line coding clubs
  • social housing tower block tenants in the city centre also benefiting from free ultrafast connectivity
  • transport solution for traffic mapping to inform future traffic flow and allow real-time traffic management
  • expansion of the National Assistive Technologies test-bed, delivering solutions into more than 350 properties to enable vulnerable people to live safely at home, reducing social care intervention
  • significant investment securing plans for ubiquitous connectivity to all Sunderland premises.

In addition, the confirmation of multi-million pound investment through recently announced 5G Create funding and Getting Building Fund (GBF) was welcome news to the region.

“We are driving projects across Sunderland to embed an augmented digital infrastructure, which will continue to be key to our recovery from the current Covid-19 pandemic”

The council said these projects will provide a boost for the manufacturing sector, exploring connected automated logistics (CAL) and the use of 5G technology by UK tech innovators to explore new opportunities in North East England to facilitate next generation digital connectivity.


Several other awards were announced at the virtual awards ceremony. Essex and Herts Digital Innovation Zone won the Cross-sector Digital Collaboration category while the Department for Work and Pensions topped the Digital Public Service Innovation category for its “Tell Us Once” initiative, which allows you to report a death to most government organisations in one go. Appyway’s West Midlands (WM) 5G congestion solution came top in the 5G Innovation category.


The overall winner was Elemental Software. It topped the HealthTech Innovation category with a remote support solution designed to ensure vulnerable community members are mobilised, contacted, connected and supported during the Covid-19 pandemic.


For a full list and more details of winners, go to


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