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Urban tech incubator launches £100,000 fund for planning innovation

Words: Simon Wicks
Web city drawing

Inventive small enterprises are being invited to pitch for a share of £100,000 to help them improve planning in the UK through design, data use and digital technology.

Winning firms will receive £10-20,000 to develop ideas and prototypes that demonstrate how user-focused design, data and digital tech can help the UK’s planning systems function more efficiently and effectively for citizens, developers and planners themselves.

The cash is being offered by Future Cities Catapult, the government supported incubator for businesses exploring new ideas and technology for urban environments. It comes hot on the heels of an FCC State of the Art report (PDF) report that found innovation in the planning system is sparse and that planning authorities were slow to adopt digital and data-driven techniques within the planning process.

The report is part of a broader Future of Planning programme that aims to spur the development of a “faster, more transparent and equitable” planning system.

Via the ‘open call’, small businesses are invited to submit proposals that address the four challenges identified in the in the report:

  • Data informed planning
  • Flexible planning (taking into account economics, political and technological changes to better forecast impact and spot trends)
  • Improved user experience of planning applications
  • Increasing citizen influence.

FCC’s head projects, Stefan Webb, said: “We’re very excited to be launching the Future of Planning open call to support UK small and medium-sized enterprises to build a planning system that works even harder for planners, communities and developers.”

He continued: “If you have ideas on planning systems, how to increase certainty for developers, and how to enable communities to understand and engage with planning, then I encourage you to take part.”

Daniel Mohamed, founder of Urban Intelligence, a planning tech start-up based at the Future Cities Catapult, said: "It's good that the public sector are taking note of the potential for technology to improve the planning system and are actively pursuing new solutions to classic problems. The open data movement and the availability of new technologies will present a world of fresh opportunities to ensure that the input evidence bases of plans are more responsive to a fast-changing world. Technology will also present planners with the ability to engage with the public more effectively to ensure that new schemes are in line with what communities want and allow them to better understand what might happen around them in the future."

Mohamed continued: "I would also say that there's already a warm and supportive existing community of tech startups that are working together to devise disruptive methods of tackling planning issues. Despite the historic prevalence of 'technophobia' in the property sector, there has never been a better time for technology entrepreneurs to play a part in addressing social, economic and environmental issues in the built environment. The momentum is definitely on the up."

The deadline for applications for funding is midnight on 26 January 2017. To find out more, visit the Future Cities Catapult website.

Photo | Shutterstock