London – a global testbed for urban innovation

Lucette Demets, Head of Urban, London & Partners, endorses London as the perfect ecosystem for smart, urban innovation.

London is an urban innovator with a drive for new ideas and a free-thinking mindset. The city that built the world’s first underground railway system continues to invent and collaborate on the world stage in areas such as smart mobility and open data, urban regeneration and environmental sustainability.

London has the tools, talent and support to be the place where the best ideas are developed, amplified and scaled.

Access to capital and talent

With more than 233 languages spoken and a third of the population hailing from outside of London, the capital is a melting pot of ideas and talent.

London is also the European capital for investment into tech$10.5bn VC investment was recorded for London in 2020, which represents a quarter of Europe’s whole VC investment for the year.

Home to 60 unicorn companies, London is a global leader for scaleups thanks to the tech talent from four of the world’s top 50 universities, access to funding and a multitude of incubators and accelerators dedicated to growing companies.

An ecosystem uniquely placed for innovation

London is the capital of convergence. It is home to an unparalleled network of resources and expertise across industries, from finance and tech to urban development and life sciences. Its infrastructure, digital connectivity and sustainability focus make the capital a prime location for developing ideas, solutions and innovation.

A supportive environment

In recent years London has made great strides in creating the right environment for innovation to thrive, with a clear focus on how to best use data and smart technology to better meet the needs of citizens.

Between the Smart London team at the Greater London Authority, the commercial innovation team at Transport for London, the London Office of Technology & Innovation and London & Partners’ urban team, we have a cohesive and collaborative team to deliver on this vision. 

How do we leverage this to make London an even better place to live, work and visit?

Any innovation should be focused on supporting London’s recovery mission and climate change goals, addressing the digital divide and social equity, and leveraging data and technology to help solve specific city challenges.

We also need to continue learning from, sharing best practice and collaborating with other cities. 

This approach is exemplified by the collaborative framework which was successfully trialled in Sharing Cities, the EU Horizon 2020 programme.

Since 2016, Sharing Cities has rolled out ten low-carbon technologies in the three demonstrator areas of London (Royal Borough of Greenwich), Lisbon and Milan.

Programmes like Sharing Cities not only help to avoid duplication of resources, but also spur innovation and knowledge transfer. For instance, the programme has developed a sustainable energy management system (SEMS) which is now being put into use in different types of developments, from social housing estates to large municipal buildings – and can be expanded to manage energy assets at a district level. SEMS in London is based around an open-source deployment, encouraging a more rapid spread of knowledge and system adoption.

London is well positioned to demonstrate the potential for these new technologies to deliver a green recovery, and to collaborate with the investment community to realise those ambitions at pace and at scale.

With more exciting initiatives on the horizon, such as the expansion of full fibre, the enhancing of the London Datastore, and an array of innovation led programmes, London is truly a global testbed for urban innovation.