SMArt CitIES Network for Sustainable Urban Futures (SMARTIES Net)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: Sch of Geography

Abstract

In a rapidly urbanising world where more than 50% of the global population lives in cities, the way in which cities are planned, built, operated and redeveloped has increasing social, environmental and economic importance. The concentration of people in cities continues to grow and is anticipated to double by 2050 driven by internal and external economic mobility, and migration from rural environments and global conflict zones putting direct stress on housing, infrastructure and services. Governments and city governors are increasingly developing city visions which identify long-term goals for IT (connectivity/'smart' systems/digital services), infrastructure (housing /transport /water/waste/energy/goods/food) and development (green growth/livelihood improvements) but urban sustainability is challenged by social (poverty/cohesion/inclusion/diversity), environmental (extreme weather/tectonics/disease outbreaks) and economic (recession/declining labour market/oil price fluctuations) factors which frequently operate on shorter timescales and which can impact severely on cities, urban ecosystems and people. To achieve sustainable solutions to these challenges requires innovative thinking and multidisciplinary teams of talented researchers who can develop novel approaches in partnership with communities and stakeholders locally, nationally and internationally. This project brings together such a team from the UK and India to create a SMARt ciTIES Network which will develop future thinking and new approaches to increase the sustainability of selected cities in both countries. Through networking events, workshops and entrepreneur competitions we will focus on addressing the big issues faced by urban planners and governors including traffic congestion, affordable housing, the provision of accessible, resilient and future-proof infrastructure for clean water and sanitation, transport and energy, and waste management and recycling while ensuring all citizens have equal access to and participation in a city life which is safe, secure, inclusive, healthy and desirable.

Planned Impact

The aim of this SMARt ciTIES Network is to establish a consortium of multidisciplinary, international researchers with expertise spanning education and social science, cultural heritage and urban planning, science and engineering, ecology and environmental sciences and information technology to develop new collaborative solutions to the multi-layered challenges of rapid urbanisation. Through working together to share knowledge, expertise and experience the network participants will work with local, national and international stakeholder groups to address the need for sustainable provision of accessible, affordable, resilient and future-proof infrastructure for housing, transport and energy and waste management and recycling, clean water and sanitation, while ensuring all citizens (including the poor, displaced and disadvantaged) have equal access to and participation in a city life which is safe, secure, inclusive, healthy and desirable. We will identify locally-acceptable, gender-sensitive and environmentally sustainable solutions that will enhance the urban habitat and lead directly to economic and welfare benefits for individuals and households, promoting economic and social development. The UK-India Consortium of researchers will meet in different cities in India to brainstorm solutions to the challenges faced by urban dwellers, policy makers and governors of those locations. Future Cities reports will be created based on the discussions and key innovations identified. It is envisaged that local communities, businesses, NGOs, city officers and governors will be engaged throughout this process in co-production of outcomes that are acceptable to all.

The SMARt ciTIES Network will run an online entrepreneurship competition involving students from all institutions and local SMEs. The focus will be on Future Smart Cities and how Open Source Information, Virtual Platforms, new 'Apps' and Big Data can be used for the benefit of the targeted cities (including in areas such as traffic planning, service logistics and for public health benefits). The best groups will be awarded a travel bursary to India and work together with their SMEs collaborators to develop their ideas with community engagement events into pilot outputs. It is envisaged that the network will expand to include new associate members throughout the project since it is recognized that the solutions to rapid urbanisation require multidisciplinary and whole community input at all levels.

Publications

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Description We have developed the concept of city-level Urban Observatories for India and worked with different city groups and stakeholders to explore what that concept might mean for them and how an observatory would help inform: regional and city authorities (access to integrated and dynamic data and information to better understand how the city works and thus improve planning and decision-making); citizens (through the use of dashboards, maps and real-time information offer improved access to and understanding of their city, encourage a sense of city community, though links to social media enable real-time information sharing and the benefits accrued via a more informed set of decisions made by city planners); innovators (through access to open source city data and information with which to develop tailored applications). We have built new capacity by involving international and local researchers outside of the network but with interests in the chosen cities.

The Newton funded SMARTIES Net workshops in Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai, Chandigarh, Kolkata, Visakhapatnam and Kochi played a key role in raising awareness of the potential of Urban Observatories as a platform to make city-level data more visible, more useful for governance and as a mechanism to enable citizens and communities to have a voice in managing their city. In total the events demonstrated significant reach and engaged 828 unique participants and representatives including Regional and Local Government Chiefs, Principle and Home Secretaries, Commissioners of Municipal Corporations and Port Authorities, an Indian Police Service Commissioner, several British Deputy High Commissioners and UK civil servants (FCO, DFID, Prosperity Fund), Town Planners, Chief Architects, Presidents and representatives of Chambers of Commerce, CEOs and representatives of entrepreneurship, business and innovation (multinational, national and local e.g. Kochi Metro, Tata Consultancy Services, IBM, Delta Power, Kasturi & Sons, Western Indian Products Ltd/WIPRO, Ucal Auto Pvt Ltd, ESAF Microfinance and Investments Pvt Ltd), lawyers and advocates, Indian government funding bodies (DST), Vice Chancellors & University Directors, academics, researchers, students, NGOs (e.g. Heritage Walks Calcutta, Society for Human and Environment Development), residents and the press. Some public attendees were alerted to the workshop events by our social media coverage (through the project twitter account @smartiesproject, and the facebook/twitter accounts of participating Chambers of Commerce and the NIUA).

The workshops were well received by the print (e.g. City newspaper, 22 March 2017: "Urban Observatory to help in policy decisions of Vizag") and visual media. Examples of video output from workshops demonstrate the impact of the research (in both Telugu and English) on city governors in Visakhapatnam (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5o1WTJTzLys) and the business sector in Mumbai (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_twbfc-yTQY). However, there is also recognition that there remains a challenge of how to engage low income sectors and enable a fair, transparent and equitable decision-making process (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R3cUL5FepVc).

The workshops leveraged a wide range of international experience that stimulated the development of Urban Observatories as tools with local ownership. Evidence for this is that a number of the cities have now set up Urban Observatory Steering Committees to plan delivery of a city-level observatory. The stakeholders involved in these groups have been a combination of local academia organisations (who have existing expertise in handling Big Data, GIS and super-computer and server facilities), chambers of commerce whose members seek opportunities for innovation and business from this work and municipal authorities. The most advanced of these is Chennai, that have responded to the call made at the workshop by Dharmendra Pratap Yadav, Secretary to Tamil Nadu State Government (Department of Housing and Urban Development) and Vice Chair Chennai Municipal Development Authority, who argued, "It is difficult for policy makers to know what is the right thing to do give the pace and scale of change. Government often works in isolation... We have regulations on development, but diversification of urban landscape is an issue. The poor are lost in our urban areas. How do we structure urban growth, in an inclusive way? Within a year we want an Urban Observatory to move this agenda forward". He has agreed to fund an observatory and Chennai held its first steering group meeting in April hosted by the President of the Madras Chamber of Commerce with State and Municipal Representatives, the Director of IIT Madras, Vice Chancellor of Madras School of Economics and Director of National Institute for Urban Affairs. Significant progress towards establishing steering groups has been made in Kolkata (hosted by Director, IIT Kharagpur), Mumbai (hosted by Director Bombay Chamber of Commerce) and Chandigarh (hosted by the Chandigarh Research and Knowledge Innovation Cluster led by the Vice Chancellor of Panjab University).

Our research has contributed to new insights into city-level issues both in understanding key themes (traffic management; air and water quality; the importance of and challenges facing informal sectors of the population; sustainability; resilience; access to different forms of cultural heritage in the urban landscape and the challenges of conservation) and challenges to the development of Urban Observatories (data security; data governance; privacy; common frameworks; the complex and changing nature of community; availability of open source platforms; transparency and accountability; how to include marginalised and disenfranchised sectors of society including from low income groups).

We found that governors and planners appreciate the challenges of balancing sustainability and societal improvements in urban decision-making. Shri Purushartha, Commissioner, Municipal Corporation of Chandigarh Union Territory argued that Chandigarh needs an Urban Observatory and can use the improved understandings to develop the city for all of society: "Finding solutions to the many challenges facing India's urbanisation is very welcome. The Urban Observatory is something that should have happened many years ago. Its important the observatory ensures India's urban development includes eco-districts and doesn't include slums or extended villages ribbon development. We need to help cities develop and include green spaces along with essential services. Can a city be 'great' if surrounded by waste and slums? Quality of life and development are equal partners".
Exploitation Route We intend to develop the learning from this project into a coherent set of outputs and recommendations aimed at Indian city decision makers but ultimately of value to all city level decision makers.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Construction,Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Energy,Environment,Healthcare,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Security and Diplomacy,Transport

 
Description We have discussed the development of urban observatories with stakeholders in 4 cities (including civic administration and policy makers, the public, businesses, government agencies, urban planners, the British high commission, DFID, UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office and NGOs). Three of the four cities engaged have set up steering committees to develop and create city level urban observatories (Chennai, Chandigarh & Kolkata). In addition at the invitation of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office I participated in the UK-India TECH Summit 7-9 November 2016 as an invited speaker on the panel session on 'Connected Cities' during which I shared findings from the project. I also spoke on this topic at the UK-India Ministerial Energy for Growth Summit 6-7 April 2017. Both of these events were attended by UK and Indian Government Ministers and Secretaries of State as well as representatives from the business, trade and innovation communities. Our work has contributed to thinking in India around the development of Smart City Indicators developed by project partner the National Institute for Urban Affairs. Most recently our work has contributed to thinking around the use of digital technologies and governance innovation in rapidly urbanising cities of >5 Million population and global "megacities" (>10 Million population) in the Global South, supported by the Bombay Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Construction,Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Energy,Environment,Healthcare,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Security and Diplomacy,Transport
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

 
Description Chennai Urban Observatory Steering Group
Geographic Reach Asia 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
 
Description Newton Fund RCUK-DIPI-Ristekdikti-MoHE-DOST-TRF Research Partnerships Call
Amount £41,621 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/P018513/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2017 
End 12/2018
 
Description Chandigarh research networks 
Organisation Panjab University
Department Department of Geography
PI Contribution We have developed a joint research grant application to the British Academy which developed directly from our workshop in January 2017. The co-produced application is currently under review.
Collaborator Contribution Collaborators from the UK and India network and additional city level stakeholders met during a 2 day workshop in Chandigarh and discussed issues faced by the city. As a result of these discussions a formal grant application leveraging a wider network of UK and Indian academics was submitted in June 2017.
Impact Research grant application to the British Academy GCRF Cities and Infrastructure 2017 call. Our proposal Remaking Modern Indian Cities: from Chandigarh to Amaravati is multidisciplinary and involves geography, social sciences, architecture and planning and civil engineering.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Chennai Research Networks 
Organisation Madras Institute of Development Studies
PI Contribution This collaboration evolved from the workshop held in Chennai in November 2016 and discussions held there
Collaborator Contribution Collaborators from the UK and India network and additional city level stakeholders met during a 2 day workshop in Chennai and discussed issues faced by the city. As a result of these discussions a formal grant application leveraging a wider network of UK and Indian academics was submitted in July 2017.
Impact Project partners have developed a proposal for the ESRC Urban Transformations in India call working with Madras School of Economics and Madras Institute of Development Studies. The research team is interdisciplinary and spans geography, education and economics
Start Year 2016
 
Description ESRC NewtonFund Impact Event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Attendance at an ESRC Newton Fund Impact Event organised by ERSC and Glasgow University and for award holders from UK, India, South Africa, Brazil, SE Asia. We discussed and shared the impacts from and delivery of our awards and sought to enhance networks for future activities
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Joint Network Launch Meeting Delhi September 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A joint workshop was held at the Habitat Centre Delhi with UK and Indian members of the Sustainable Cities & Rapid Urbanisation Workshop. The purpose was to share knowledge and practice around urban development challenges in world cities as an approach for sustainable decision making. The meeting considered a range of political and policy challenges and the best way to engage stakeholders to deliver rapid impact. The outcome of the meeting was the development of plans for a series of urban observatory workshops in Chennai, Mumbai, Chandigarh, Kolkata, Visakhapatnam & Kochi.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.rcuk.ac.uk/international/offices/india/indianews/jointnetworksustainablecities/
 
Description Mumbai (Bombay) Urban observatory workshop December 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact This was a joint workshop organised with and hosted by the Bombay Chamber of Commerce. The purpose was to share knowledge and practice around urban observatories in world cities as an approach for sustainable decision making in metropolitan and greater Mumbai. Attendees were from business, NGOs, municipal and regional government, public organisations and academia from both India and the UK and DFID India. The meeting involved wide media coverage and you-tube videos with all major contributors are available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_twbfc-yTQY
The Bombay Chamber of Commerce have agreed to work with local stakeholders to develop an urban observatory for Mumbai
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.bombaychamber.com/upcoming-event-award?id=316
 
Description Newton Fund Workshop on Emerging Socioeconomic and Environmental Challenges in the Developing Countries, TERI University March 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This workshop brought together UK & Indian experts from a range of disciplinary perspectives to brain storm the emerging challenges in urban contexts in India from the standpoint of the marginalised, informal and disadvantaged (gender, age, disability, ethnicity, religion, social status) sectors of society. Intersectional issues of health, air pollution, clean water, urban migration, energy, poverty, transport and housing were discussed and research challenges framed for future collaboration.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.surrey.ac.uk/features/uk-india-collaborative-workshop-addresses-emerging-socio-economic-a...
 
Description Participation in Governance Innovation for 5 Million Plus Cities 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This workshop hosted by the Bombay Chamber of Commerce and Industry, focused on thinking around governance challenges for rapidly urbanising cities in the Global South with populations above 5 Million people. It was aimed at developing new approaches for urban planners and governors and was attended by around 50 people
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Urban Observatory Workshop Chandigarh January 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact A joint workshop was held with the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation, Panjab University, Chandigarh Research & Knowledge Innovation Cluster Higher Education institutions, businesses and urban planners and the British Deputy High Commissioner for Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana & Rajasthan (David Lelliott). The purpose was to share knowledge and practice around urban observatories in world cities as an approach for sustainable decision making in Chandigarh. The meeting considered the unique heritage architecture of modernist planned Chandigarh and the challenges of 1950s European urban design fulfilling the needs of modern India. The outcome of the meeting was the development of a Chandigarh Urban Observatory steering group led by the Vice Chancellor of Panjab Engineering College.
Press coverage: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chandigarh/chandigarh-should-have-urban-observatory-suggests-panel/articleshow/56650635.cms
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://crikc.puchd.ac.in/pdf/2017/workshop-on-chandigarh-urban-observatory.pdf
 
Description Urban Observatory Workshop Kolkata (Calcutta) March 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact A joint workshop was held in Kolkata in March 2017. The purpose was to share knowledge and practice around urban observatories in world cities as an approach for sustainable decision making in Kolkata including the heritage architecture of colonial Calcutta. The meeting considered the expansion into New Town, issues for the Police Service around legislation and enforcement, river developments along the Hooghly banks and community engagement through heritage (engaging an NGO Heritage Walk Calcutta). Attendees included civil servants, local politicians and civic leaders, the public, business & industry, academics from the UK and India and representatives from the British Deputy High Commission. The outcome of the meeting was the development of a Calcutta Urban Observatory steering group led by the Vice Chancellor of IIT Kharagpur and an agreement for office space to site the observatory at the new IIT Kharagpur campus in Kolkata.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Urban Observatory workshop Chennai (Madras) November 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact This was a joint workshop organised with and hosted by the Madras Chamber of Commerce. The purpose was to share knowledge and practice around urban observatories in world cities as an approach for sustainable decision making in urban Chennai. Attendees were from business, NGOs, municipal and regional government, public organisations and academia from both India and the UK. The meeting led to a political agreement to fund an urban observatory from city funds and a local steering group was set up to deliver this for the city.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://opensourcegeospatial.icaci.org/2016/11/reflections-from-uk-india-joint-network-on-sustainable...