Smartening Manchester’s Corridor

The Corridor at the heart of Manchester’s knowledge economy is the focus of its smart city development.
Published: Fri 13 Mar 2015

The term ‘smart city’ may be a buzz phrase but smart cities are the way forward in addressing issues such as climate change and urbanization, according to Steve Turner, head of Smart Cities at Manchester City Council in UK.

In an interview at Low Carbon Scotland 2015, Turner said that cities are where people want to be, with over 50% of the global population now living in cities. This presents huge challenges for housing, education, how to provide infrastructure, resilience, etc. Further, people, specifically want and demand more for their lifestyles, and their expectations of what is provided by cities is also increasing.

“Smart cities offer a different way of doing things,” said Turner. “One of the critical things we’ve learned in Manchester is not to create a new template but to build on one’s assets and strengths. For example, we have a strong track record of public-private sector partnership working, not only at industrial level but also at the academic level, so our record in terms of turning the city around is very much driven by that form of partnership.”

Turner also noted the importance of data for smart city development. “Cities sit on a raft of data but it is only of value if it is in the public domain and can be made use of. The trick is in prioritizing which sets of data should be released.”

Manchester Corridor under development

Manchester’s smart city project is centred on the Corridor, a 243ha business area “at the heart of Manchester’s knowledge economy.” Utilized by about a fifth of the city’s workforce, it is home to leading academic institutions including the University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University and The Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, cultural venues, a science park and several major development initiatives.

The vision for the Corridor is that it will become “a byword for originality and smart creativity, a place where knowledge is put to work, where research is applied and both radical thinking and experimentation actively encouraged.”

The project is led by Manchester City Council and includes the two universities as well as Siemens which is Manchester-based and the local digital technology company Clicks and Links.

Part of the Triangulum consortium

The Corridor is also part of the Triangulum consortium, which includes the cities of Eindhoven in Holland and Stavanger in Norway. Last year the consortium was awarded €24 million to demonstrate ‘smart green growth’ through technologies ranging from renewable energy and storage to improved distributed energy efficiency and intelligent energy management using ICT data, as well as the increased use of electric vehicles.

Paul Brodrick, head of Connected Communities in Siemens’ Energy Management Division, explained at Low Carbon Scotland that the Corridor is a 5-year project, with the first 12 months devoted primarily to planning. “We will develop a technical specification to present to the EU to get connectivity to the assets and we hope to be up and running by mid-2016. Then we are planning a number of use cases pertaining to decentralized generation and how to create revenue opportunities for the city.”

A model will be built of the city’s energy system and data on transport as well as other data will also be incorporated with the energy data.

Brodrick said that the large number of stakeholders involved in Triangulum – 28 in all – brings complexity but also opportunities, particularly around the sharing of data in the partnerships with Eindhoven and Stavanger.

He also noted that there is a lot of funding available in Europe for smart city activities. “The reason is that there is an associated economic benefit – innovation brings jobs, jobs bring wealth, and wealth makes for smarter cities,” he said. “We are speaking to a number of cities who have asked us for help and the process is complex but the endgame is very rewarding.”