Got an Idea for How To Make Our City Centre Smarter? We Want To Hear It!


Vicky DeBlasi 

Visitors to Manchester City Centre this summer will see a vibrant and lively city centre. The biennial Manchester International Festival not only brings to the city world class artistic premieres, but looks to the people of Manchester for inspiration.

Many of the volunteers you’ll see in Festival Square are local people – and for the launch event in Piccadilly Gardens, “What is the City But its People?”, over 100 Manchester people of all ages and backgrounds (and a few Manchester dogs!) walked across a catwalk, with large screens telling their personal stories. We’ve also had the spectacle of Manchester Day, where the city’s communities dress floats – this year on the theme “Abracadabra”- and coming soon will be the CityRide, where the city’s streets are given over to cycles for the day.

Yet we’re aware that not everything in the city centre is as good as it should be. That we are having to deal with the complexities of a modern, successful city centre, with reduced public sector budgets, and greater expectations from residents, visits and businesses.

In order to address this, late last year, we undertook a “City Centre Review”, involving over 200 stakeholders, and getting people to submit photographs and other information about things going on in the city centre.

From out of that review, a new City Centre lead, will help coordinate and bring together services so that we can be more responsive to problems as they arise, and make sure the city remains a great place for people to gather, live, work and enjoy.

Inevitably there are a range of challenges– not unique to Manchester – that we’d like to address to make the city a better place for all. Over the coming months and years we’ll be doing our best to address these. But as part of this, and alongside us being the UK’s IoT Demonstrator through CityVerve, we felt that technology could have a part in addressing city problems, and have role in providing solutions.

Because of this we are currently running a market consultation, where we’d like individuals and companies to let us know what kind of solutions are available. The City Centre Review identified a range of issues and challenges and we’d like to see what the innovation community might come up with – whether its an existing product or service that we don’t know about, applying existing technologies to new problems, or coming up with new ideas that we could road test.

What are we looking for?

The aim is to positively influence city services to facilitate ‘smart’ improvements and to help deliver more personal, efficient, flexible products and services.  The city would like to hear from suppliers about how technological solutions could address some of the issues raised in the City Centre Review, creating a research and development opportunity which would deliver a number of pilots addressing key themes.  We also want to see how human centred design can be used to inform and shape the pilots.

And what happens next?

Following on from this market consultation which helpfully identified a range of ideas and technologies for addressing city centre problems, Manchester City Council has put in place a tender process asking for applications along three themes:

  1. Mobile City Services Platform
  2. City Sensing
  3. Homelessness

Applicants now need to register on the NW Chest, the city council’s procurement portal, where all further information can be found. 

The tender process closes on the 29th of August 2017, and the estimated value is £120,000.