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London mayor launches smart roadmap

Initiatives include the Civic Innovation Challenge which will play a major role in establishing London as a test-bed for technological innovation

New research underlines London's position as a leading technology hub
New research underlines London's position as a leading technology hub

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has announced a city-wide initiative to harness London’s tech talent in solving some of the UK capital’s most pressing challenges, including poor air quality, urban design and digital connectivity.


Khan revealed his vision to make London the world’s leading smart city at the launch of London Tech Week, which showcases the city as Europe’s tech capital across more than 200 events attended by 50,000 people from around the world.


He also published new research that serves to underline London’s position as a leading tech hub. The report on London’s artificial intelligence (AI) ecosystem from CognitionX, shows the capital is home to 758 artificial intelligence companies, which it claims, is more than twice as many as its closest rivals Paris and Berlin combined.


Figures collated separately by Pitchbook shows that UK tech companies received more than £5bn in venture capital funding since the EU referendum – more than France, Germany and Sweden combined – of which London attracted more than £4bn.


Smarter London Together is a roadmap for how he will realise his ambition to make London the world’s smartest city. In it, Khan sets out how he will help the city’s public services use tech and data to improve the lives of all Londoners.


The roadmap includes more than 20 initiatives – one of which is the Civic Innovation Challenge – which will play a major role in establishing London as a test-bed for technological innovation, as well as supporting the development of smart infrastructure and attracting investment in dynamic new businesses.


It aims to match tech start-ups with leading companies and public bodies to tackle some of London’s most pressing problems, including inequality, climate change and London’s ageing population.


The plans include:

  • a new approach to connectivity, including proposing planning powers for full fibre connectivity to all new homes, working with Transport for London (TfL) and councils to roll out 4G using public buildings and existing physical infrastructure, and supporting bids for government funding to test 5G connectivity
  • promoting greater data sharing among public services through the London Office of Data Analytics – in which the Mayor will invest £365,000 – and the proposal of a new body to foster closer working between local authorities, universities and the tech community
  • supporting the commission of a new generation of smart technology (such as lamp posts incorporating air quality sensors, publicly-accessible wi-fi and electric vehicle charging points)
  • proposals to develop a pan-London cyber-security strategy, drawing together new and existing bodies including the London Digital Security Centre and the London Cyber Innovation Centre, in response to Londoners’ concerns about the use of their data and online safety.

“We need a step-change in how we harness innovation for the benefit of all Londoners. Many of London’s advances in the application of data and smart technologies are globally recognised. We have clearly taken great steps but I want us to do even more to meet the needs of Londoners,” said Khan.


“As one of the world’s leading technology hubs, we need to be bold and think big, to experiment and try things out that have not been done elsewhere. I see London’s future as a global ‘test-bed city’ for civic innovation, where the best ideas are developed, amplified and scaled."


He continued: “To solve the biggest problems our great city faces, I am calling for an ever-more collaborative approach than ever. We need our public services, major universities and technology community to mobilise their resources in new ways and partner with us to make London a fairer and more prosperous place.”


The mayor officially launched London Tech Week at the Francis Crick Institute where he spoke to an audience of young Londoners from some secondary schools and universities including Imperial College London, Kings College London and Middlesex University London.


“The new roadmap focuses on getting the foundations for the future right. Digital connectivity is now rightly seen by Londoners as important as their other utilities,” added Theo Blackwell, chief digital officer for Greater London Authority.


“We will properly mobilise the city’s resources to end not-spots and propose planning powers to ensure new developments are connected. We will put peoples’ priorities first through the mayor’s Civic Innovation Challenge to mobilise the best in the tech sector to help solve urban problems.”


He continued: “We will strike a new deal with citizens on use of their data so when it is appropriate to share data, it is done in a trusted, safe way and for public benefit. Tech jobs should open for Londoners and we will invest in skills and support efforts to make the tech sector more diverse.


“All of this will succeed only through collaboration and partnership, which we are committed to. We call on the tech community in all its forms across London to join us in this challenge.”


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