The growth of 4G mobile telecommunications and the increasing use of digital technology in Birmingham must take on the spirit of Birmingham’s industrial fathers Boulton, Watt and Murdoch, a new city council run commission said.
Industry experts, from firms such as IBM, Ferovial and SAP AG and leading academics have signed up for the new Smart City Commission which will look at ways of improving Birmingham’s technological infrastructure for both business and citizens.
Among projects being looked at by the new body will be the setting up of 4G mobile services in the city. Birmingham was last year given the go ahead by the Government to start rolling out the superfast broadband service and is developing both the network and apps to make best use of it.
Other policies being developed include the creation of a digital district for the technology sector.
But the council now recognises it needs to do much more and has created the Smart City Commission.
As well as the high technology sector areas such as the green economy and transport infrastructure could also be tackled. The council hopes it will be as influential, creative and have the impact that the meetings of Boulton, Watt and Murdoch and the Lunar Society did at the height of the Industrial Revolution.
Council cabinet member in charge of the Smart City agenda James McKay, who will chair the commission, said: “Centuries ago, the likes of Boulton, Murdoch and Watt were pioneers who elevated the city, and the nation to bigger and better things. We now need to channel that passion, spirit and ingenuity to shape solutions in the 21st century.
“I want to build on the great opportunities that our small businesses and entrepreneurs have created, maximise their contributions and not re-invent the wheel.”
He said that while the foundations are there with the 4G deal and organisations like Digital Birmingham, the city needs the pace of change to be accelerated to deliver the growth and jobs needed.
“Like many cities, Birmingham finds itself challenged on many levels due to the slow economy, a growing and ageing population, inherited infrastructure and systems that don’t readily lend themselves to the new ways of working with partners.
“We shouldn’t be daunted – we are excited, ready to collaborate and roll our sleeves up to meet the challenges that we must face to deliver innovation as the potential rewards for the city are huge.”
Companies with strong links to Birmingham have signed up to share their expertise, at no cost to the taxpayer, among them Enrique Sanchez from Madrid-based transport engineering firm Ferovial and Guenter Pecht-Seibert, the German-based senior vice president of technology firm SAP AG.
Mr Sanchez said: “The Smart City agenda is going to change the way that Birmingham works and we will be able to transform our resources and define the activities needed due to get a prosperous city for decades to come.”
Rick Robinson, of IBM Smarter Cities, another member of the commission said: “The smartest cities are those that have a complete and integrated view of city systems such as energy, transport, health and employment – the very foundations needed to stimulate economic development.
“IBM welcomes the opportunity to help Birmingham develop its vision and aims so that it can really understand the dynamics of the city and deliver targeted improvements in the quality of public services and in creating a prosperous future for people and business alike.”