Bristol overtakes London as UK’s smartest city


Bristol has overtaken London as the UK’s leading “smart city” according to the second UK Smart Cities Index, commissioned by Huawei UK and conducted by Navigant Consulting.

The report also highlighted the growing importance of public-private partnerships to foster collaboration and drive smart city initiatives. Of particular note were partnerships with local universities, but businesses and other organisations such as health authorities were also key drivers.

The report is based on evaluations of 20 cities and their strategies, key projects and overall readiness in using digital technology to improve crucial civic services from transport infrastructure to healthcare.

Bristol and London were named as “leaders”, with the south west city taking the top spot. The most improved city is Manchester, which has climbed two places to third, while Cambridge has entered the top ten despite not featuring in last year’s report. The report also names 12 “contender” cities which are: Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Milton Keynes, Glasgow, Nottingham, Peterborough, Cambridge, Oxford, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Newcastle.


Bristol’s move up the rankings is a direct result of it taking significant strides to extend its innovation programmes and more closely integrate those initiatives into city strategy. The Bristol Is Open project provides a large scale connectivity testbed and the new City Operations Centre ensures that services are effectively implemented. The city also leads in data access, energy innovation and community engagement.

The important role of partners such as the Future Cities Catapult, Innovate UK, the Scottish Smart Cities initiative, academic institutions and the private sector is also emphasised as key to driving smart cities progress. Central government support is also beneficial to smart cities programmes, with the report urging central government to underwrite risk, address procurement issues and support collaboration.

Sir Andrew Cahn, Huawei UK Board, says, “The successful cities of the future are going to be smart cities. It’s clear from this report that cities across the UK have made considerable progress over the last year, developing and implementing strategies to improve the delivery of public services and the urban environment.

“The scale of progress throughout the country is represented by a doubling in the number of cities included in this year’s ranking index compared to 2016. While Bristol and London are named as “leaders”, other cities have entered the index with exciting smart initiatives, such as Newcastle’s City Futures programme and Cambridge’s Smart Cambridge intelligent City Platform (iCP).”

Matt Hancock, minister of state for digital and culture, comments, “The digital revolution is gaining momentum all over the UK – smarter cities can improve people’s everyday lives from accessing healthcare to simplifying waste management and streamlining public services. We are backing smart cities and the recent review into Artificial Intelligence highlighted how we can establish ourselves as the world leader in this area of emerging technology.”

Eric Woods, research director at Navigant Consulting, who led the study, adds, “UK cities are demonstrating an impressive commitment to service and technology innovation. They are now embedding smart city ideas into city planning and operations. They are also preparing for the impact of the next wave of technologies, including 5G, autonomous vehicles, and machine learning. The growing contribution that local universities are making to these programmes further emphasises the importance of advanced technologies to the future of UK cities.”