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Preparing for urbanisation in India, by Niraj Saraf, connected cities mission lead for Innovate UK

Businesses can join a November trade visit to India and explore its multi-billion pound smart cities market

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Preparing for urbanisation in India, by Niraj Saraf, connected cities mission lead for Innovate UK

The global need for radical solutions to city challenges is becoming ever clearer. Over the last few years Innovate UK has made significant progress in developing UK SME capability in being able to offer, and show value from, the kinds of innovative cross-systems products and services that cities need in order to flourish in the future. Accelerators in the UK such as the Cognicity Challenge and Mass Challenge have also added to this capability.

 

Perhaps the biggest urbanisation challenge in the world is the one facing India, which is currently only around 30 per cent urbanised. If, as expected, the global urbanisation trend in followed in India, the country can expect that in the next 15 years, some 300 million people will move into cities – almost the same as the entire population of the United States.

 

In anticipation, the government has launched a Smart Cities programme to develop 100 ‘Smart’ cities and the Indian Government is seeding this with £100m investment. The first 20 lighthouse cities are planning projects with capital expenditure of £4.8 billion. Overall, £24 billion worth of investment is expected across 100 cities over the next 5-7 years. The scale of the challenge and the size of the opportunity it presents is why we’re working with the Department for International Trade, the Enterprise Europe Network, and Future Cities Catapult to take our next Connected Cities Entrepreneur Mission to India.

 

We’ll start in Delhi where we’ll be part of a very high profile UK-India Tech Summit. This flagship knowledge and technology conference is an unmissable opportunity to meet some of the key Indian industry players and other stakeholders in the Smart Cities programme.

 

We’ll then go on to Pune, one of the most progressive of the 20 lighthouse cities which will also be the home of the ‘Smart Hub’, and learning and knowledge sharing resource being set up by the Future Cities Catapult to support India’s Smart Cities programme.

 

We’ll finish by going to Kochi where the UK Government, has supported the development of a masterplan for future-proofing the city. This involves identifying the investments and projects required to address four key infrastructure priorities: transport, flooding, eco neighbourhoods and solid waste management so should offer a wide variety of opportunities for mission participants.

 

An entrepreneur mission though is about much more than turning up. From the moment your application is accepted, our work begins to prepare you for success. You’ll get coaching, a market briefing, and insights from people who’ve been to India and made a success of it, and support to hone your pitch so you can really drive your offer home.

 

Less tangibly but no less powerfully, what you’ll also get is membership of a peer group of companies for collaborations, much support and, more often than not, a beer or two! In many ways, it’s an invaluable bonding experience and previous mission participants will testify.

 

Participating entrepreneurs will also have chance to attend our flagship innovation show, Innovate 2016 in Manchester, which brings together high potential businesses, international investors, government and academia in the largest multi-sector showcase of innovation in the UK. In terms of who this mission is for, the opportunities are varied.

 

I went to India on a scoping visit earlier this year and one sentiment I picked up was that cities in India are at an earlier starting point so at least some of the focus is on basic infrastructure. As someone said, in a city that only has two hours of mains water a day, an open data store isn’t a priority. What I picked up as areas of strong possibility were:

 

  • Waste, especially solid waste management, and, taking that further, the circular economy companies could be good to focus on;
  • Water and waste water
  • Hygiene
  • Greater access to open public spaces and pedestrian friendly infrastructure
  • Intelligent transport

 

Don’t regard this as exclusive though: if you have a different sectoral focus and have strong reasons to believe you could be successful in India, please do apply and make your case.

 

As a result of our first Connected Cities Mission, UK SMEs are now building partnerships and winning business in Malaysia and Singapore. We want to build on that success with more in India and you’d like to be part of that apply here Follow me on Twitter: @NirajKSaraf

 

 

 

Niraj joined Innovate UK in July 2014 to work on the complex challenge of stimulating the innovations to enable the long-term sustainability of cities. He brings to this over 20 years’ experience of policy and strategy development, and programme management across public, private, and voluntary sector organisations in the UK and internationally. Since joining Innovate UK, Niraj has invested in projects making innovative use of integrated city data; in placemaking projects; he has lead international entrepreneur missions; and he has facilitated the distillation and promotion of the learning from Innovate UK’s Future Cities Demonstrators.

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