Future Cities Solutions- Resources Available for You to Meet Real Challenges

You’ve been developing a great idea that you think will help to solve a societal challenge.  You’ve spotted an opportunity, but you want to make sure that you understand the market before diving in and committing a large helping of time and money. Excellent! Please read on.

Here, at Birmingham Science City, we keep an eye out for connections and resources that can help you to make things happen.  You will probably have heard of the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI, for short), but you might have passed it by.  We’d urge you to take another look, as it’s a highly accessible and useful scheme for the innovation-minded.

A few important points of clarification…

SBRI is there to help you develop commercialisable solutions rather than engage in ‘pure’ research.

It’s not only for ‘small businesses’  -although it’s very suitable for SMEs.  The ‘small’ refers to the funding of small but important steps between concept to commercialisation.  So, as long as you can show potential to commercialise your successful ideas, you can be  from the public, private and third sectors (including universities) or be a consortium containing one or more of these.

Lastly, it enables innovators to address public sector delivery challenges affecting our everyday lives.  You may deliver real and widespread social and economic impact in what you will develop.  You’ll be developing resources that could be purchased by local authorities, NHS trusts and educational establishments throughout the UK.

Will I need lots of match funding?

No.  Indeed, you may not need any.  Financially, winners can  access funding for  development contracts of up to £100K or 100% eligible costs. So you will not necessarily need much in the way of money to enter the competition.

What’s the focus in the current round?

(Image from Engineering and Technology Magazine)

Future Cities and, particularly, the use of Open Data to develop data or energy or transport/ mobility solutions.

What happens and what do I do now?

You’ll enter a two-staged competition.  You apply, this August, to win resources for a feasibility study (Phase 1).  If successful, you’ll start it in November 2013.  Once you’ve performed your study you’ll be eligible for a second competition round (Phase 2). Here you will pitch for a chance to test out your ideas in practice (applying in early June 2014).  If you win a second stage award, you’ll start working with a city that will offer itself as a free testbed for your idea in August 2014.

Registration for Phase 1 closes on 7th August (noon) and the application deadline is on 14th August (noon).  Please don’t be phased by timescales- remember that you’re applying to resource a feasibility study, initially, so you need a good concept and proposal, not proven answers and a masterplan.

Prepare well and concisely.  SBRIs have been running for a number of years, so the teams involved have tried their best to make the process swift and user-friendly.  The competition and application criteria, process and form are clear and concise, and can be found here (Click the purple box that says ‘Register and Apply’).  Also, to get a good background grasp of the priorities of the Future Cities round, download and read Solutions for Cities.

What is the scope of the competition? Do I have the right expertise?

You need to address  one of the three Future Cities challenges.  These are:

Develop a data platform for power and heat usage with sufficient granularity to identify community trends and individual usage patters in both domestic and commercial buildings.

Develop a non-proprietary, generic and open-source city management platform solution that can connect disparate data sets and data sources that exist within a city.

Develop a scalable, on demand mobility solution to help employees or visitors reach businesses within a city.

Note: Open data is the raw resource, but how you use it is up to you.

Can I pick a city?

(Image from www.itproportal.com)

You’ll be careful matched to the city that best suits your innovative ideas.  A number of cities around the UK have succeeded in being granted testbed status.  You may or may not be allocated the city nearest to you.  But this should, I am told, not matter.  If you are chosen, you’ll have demonstrated criteria for scalability and replicability.   Being a competition winner, you’ll have the IP to take away with you to use wherever you wish.

Good luck!

Wishing for your success…

Susannah Goh