An Alliance building on exciting prospects

The Inverness Campus – Inverness is involved in the Smart Mobility Project.
The Inverness Campus – Inverness is involved in the Smart Mobility Project.

A unique collaboration is highlighting Scotland’s huge attractions to investors to an increasingly attentive global marketplace

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By Clare Ross

Scotland’s seven cities are thriving and continue to create world-class offerings to potential international investors. The message from Scotland is that globally it remains one of the most attractive and stable places to invest and grow innovative, internationally successful, businesses. This is supported by the recent EY Attractiveness Survey which revealed that Scotland achieved record-breaking levels of inward investment last year.

The Scottish Cities Alliance, which is a unique collaboration of Scotland’s seven cities (Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Perth, and Stirling) and the Scottish Government, is working to build on this success by attracting investment, stimulating economic activity and creating business growth across the cities, though a wide-ranging programme of activity supported by the Cities Investment Fund.

Scotland’s cities have made considerable progress in adopting Smart technologies, using data as an asset, advancing citizen engagement, embracing innovation and establishing new forms of collaboration across the public, private and tertiary sectors. These methods are being used to make services more effective and to make Scottish cities more attractive to investors, residents, visitors and the business community. The Alliance secured £10m of ERDF funding for ‘Scotland’s 8th City – the Smart City’ programme which, once match funded, will see £24m invested to make Scotland’s cities smarter, using technologies to accelerate and transform the delivery of city services.

In recognition of the cities‘ innovative approach to Smart Cities activity, the Alliance is leading a consortium of more than 20 European cities to participate in a workshop as part of the European Week of Regions and Cities Conference in Brussels.

The ‘Smart Cities – Smart Ambitions’ event on October 11 aims to build upon the collective experience of city partnerships across a number of member states, to adopt an inter-city approach to progressing the Smart Cities agenda. The event provides an opportunity to profile the innovative Smart activity the Alliance is developing as part of the Smart Cities Scotland Blueprint, and will showcase some of the initial projects being developed as part of the ‘Scotland’s 8th City – the Smart City’ programme to a wide range of European stakeholders.

The event is supported by the Open and Agile Smart Cities Initiative (OASC), which is a city-driven non-profit organisation with the overall objective to create a Smart City market. The Alliance helped to facilitate the seven cities‘ membership to the OASC network which currently links 89 cities from 19 countries.

The investment opportunities in Scotland are huge and the Alliance and its partners are committed to working with potential investors in the cities to optimise growth for the benefit of the whole of Scotland. The European Week of Regions and Cities event will build on the successful partnerships already developed with cities, academics and businesses, and it will highlight Scotland as the place where new ideas are tried and tested.

Through the Alliance‘s strong connections with Europe, it has provided support and information to cities on Horizon 2020 opportunities, which have included developing a tool for heating and cooling mapping and planning. It also supported H2020 bids in relation to Smart cities and communities. Inverness, Stirling and Perth have signed up to the SINFONIA/ EU-GUGLE Smart Cities Replication Cluster, and all cities have signed up to the CELSIUS project which will help them progress their thinking on district energy solutions and heat networks. These developments will offer further opportunities for existing and new businesses working in these sectors.

The Highland Council’s Director of Development and Infrastructure, Stuart Black said: “Inverness is involved in ‘Scotland’s 8th City – The Smart City’, European Regional Development Fund Strategic Intervention. This initiative features a range of proposed pipeline projects, including new and innovative transport technology and data projects that aim to grow innovation through the use of improved decision making tools.”

The provision of affordable housing to meet demand is a challenge faced by all of Scotland’s cities. To enable the cities to explore ways to address common issues relating to the provision of affordable housing, including new funding mechanisms to drive forward the delivery of the Scottish Government’s target of 50,000 new affordable homes by March 2021, the Alliance has secured membership with the European Housing Partnership.

The Alliance’s role on the partnership provides an early opportunity to shape EU policy development as part of the new EU Urban Agenda, in a way which is most advantageous to the needs and aspirations of the Alliance partners in meeting their housing infrastructure needs. It also raises the profile of the Alliance at an EU level, as a front runner in the development of one of the first thematic areas of the Urban Agenda, and allows it to develop strong relationships and networks with other EU countries and cities. This will ensure it continues to maximise opportunities for sharing best practice and attracting investment.

The Alliance continues to engage with global investors through attendance at events such as MIPIM Cannes to attract investment by promoting projects of scale from across our cities, and demonstrating to the world that Scotland is a competitive investment location.

Key to this promotional activity is the Alliance’s new investment Pitch Book which showcases over £7.5bn of exciting investor ready opportunities across Scotland’s cities. The range of propositions outlined in the investment Pitch Book sets out Scotland’s stall to influential key players in the property market.

Councillor Andrew Burns, Chair of the Scottish Cities Alliance said: “We have built up strong relationships with various networks across Europe in order to promote Scotland’s seven cities and we will continue to do so. The European Week of Regions and Cities event will enable us to share our collective experience and demonstrates the cities‘ commitment to ensure that our important relationships with other cities and regions will continues to grow from strength to strength.

“Scotland’s cities have made significant progress in developing their understanding of how adopting open data and smart technology approaches, can help them deliver city services in a more effective and sustainable way to attract investors and residents.

“Our place in the new European Housing Partnership provides an important role in the development and delivery of housing policy in a Scottish and European context. The importance of well-functioning housing systems to the cohesiveness, productivity and sustainability of our cities is often overlooked, and the Alliance is keen to address this issue.

“Scotland is open for business and the Alliance will continue to support and promote the good work of our seven cities in order to attract international investment through networking and engaging with our partners across Europe.”