Scotland’s cities technology programmes lead the way

Councillor, John Alexander, Chair of the Scottish Cities Alliance and Leader of Dundee City Council, highlights the future benefits of investing in smart technologies in cities.

Creating the most attractive landscape for people to live is at the heart of everything I and my fellow city council leaders across Scotland do. To support this, we need to create the grounds for the vital investment that will bring the jobs and businesses that take our cities forward. For several years, we have been driving a hugely ambitious Smart Cities project across the Scottish cities that aims to transform the way we, as local authorities, deliver services, making the process leaner and greener. This plays a key role in our drive to rejuvenate the economic landscape following the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Scottish Cities Alliance is the unique collaboration of Scotland’s cities – Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Perth and Stirling – and the Scottish Government working together to deliver sustainable, inclusive economic growth.

Through the Alliance £50 million, including £20 million of European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) support, is being invested to make Scotland’s cities smarter, using new technologies to transform the delivery of city services.

This is known as “Scotland’s 8th City – the Smart City ERDF Programme”. It aims to enhance Smart City activity and make Scotland’s cities more attractive, liveable and resilient.

Projects include:

  • Open Data platforms in Aberdeen, Dundee, Inverness, Perth, and Stirling, complementing those developed by Edinburgh and Glasgow – there is value in all seven cities having platforms in place to make comparable data available for use in developing new products and services. There are currently 476 open data sets on the platforms, with plans to deliver up to 240 more as the 8th City programme continues.
  • Intelligent Street Lighting (ISL) systems in Aberdeen, Glasgow, and Perth are combining LED lighting with a Central Management System, supported by wireless communication networks. This is significantly reducing electricity consumption and energy wastage, further resulting in reduced CO2 emissions.
  • Smart Infrastructure – Water Management: Glasgow is pioneering a new digital surface water drainage system to create Europe’s first Smart Canal. Using sensor technology on a 250-year-old canal will address flood risk at key sites and unlock 110 hectares for investment, regeneration and development.
  • Smart Infrastructure – Innovation Lab: Located in the new ‘Perth Creative Exchange’ – a £4.25m creative hub for artists, makers, creative industry professionals and the public – the innovation lab is a £650k project which aims to make a positive economic, social and cultural impact. Creative Exchange is expected to support 66 full-time equivalent jobs and generate wage earnings of just under one million pounds per annum across the local economy.
  • Smart Communities – Mobile Working: Glasgow and Perth are delivering projects on Mobile Working, with the aim to maximise the efficiency of staff working in the field by:
    • Making better use of technology to create a flexible workforce;
    • Providing the information that staff need direct to them in the field; and
    • Providing real time information back to the back-office system.
  • Smart Mobility projects are being delivered across several cities. In my own city, Dundee’s Smart Mobility project has helped to establish the Mobility Innovation Living Lab (The MILL) as an international innovation centre, making Dundee a place for innovators to come and test exciting new transport services and technologies, tailored to the specific needs of Dundee citizens, with the aim of later up-scaling for use in other Scottish cities and further afield.

Public Safety, Smart Waste, Smart Energy and Smart Infrastructure projects are also underway across the cities. We have seen that adopting a Smart City approach makes public services more effective and efficient, and cities themselves become more attractive to investors.

The ambition is to build an agglomeration around and between Scotland’s cities, and their infrastructure and talent, so that these can collectively compete against bigger global centres. Utilising the 8th City Programme, the Scottish cities can improve the lives of their citizens and become more attractive to potential investors who are looking at sustainability as a key draw.

area around Forth & Clyde Canal, for British Waterways Scotland.