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Future Cities Catapult interviews Mark Prisk MP

As part of our Third Thursday networking event, we asked Mark Prisk MP for his thoughts on urban innovation, our work at Future Cities Catapult and how open land data can impact cities.

1. How important do you think urban innovation is and the work of organisations like Future Cities Catapult?

“I think urban innovation is crucial because cities are having to do more with less and so to find innovative solutions, especially as populations grow and become more diverse, you have to be willing to think outside the box. The old siloed approach where you had a planning department that was self-contained and that very rarely talked to the transport department, has got to change and we need to think about how to achieve a holistic approach to this, across all the different specialisms. That’s why innovation is not about being a planner or a transport manager, for example’ but about asking ‘what are the core issues that our citizens are concerned about and how do we respond to them”.

2. How do you see the concept of ‘Smart Cities’ evolving?

“Smart Cities is all about making cities better for people who live in them. I think the concept started out as a series of disparate technologies looking for a problem to solve and where we’ve got to now is the value that’s been added where those technologies have come together. Where we go from there is to enable the individual citizen to use those technologies to improve their life. At the most obvious and basic level, transport apps that have opened up TFL bus data have resulted in a huge change in the demographics of people who use buses and that’s making the marginal bus routes more viable. So there’s a series of things which haven’t been quite expected as is often the case with technology. So, I actually think the way forward is around data and looking at the synergies between technologies and enabling people to become the drivers of what they need to live in their city.”

3. What are the opportunities around open land data, and what can it mean for cities?

“Cities are under pressure to contain a myriad of different uses and what I like about digital land data is that instead of it being controlled by a small group of individuals as owners and producers, open digital land data will open up a whole raft of opportunities both for individuals, businesses and neighbourhoods in order to make better use of their immediate surroundings. I think it could also help us switch away from planning being seen as a form of combat between the small individual against a developer, into a collaborative approach where the community sees planning opportunities that can benefit themselves and bring more people in to join them.

4. How important to do you think it is for cities to create digitally enabled and data driven planning systems?

“I think it is very important but I think we have a couple of steps to take before we get to where we want to be. I personally think that one of the benefits could be if we could speed up the plan-making process and address the fact that the public feel this is some mind-numbingly tedious and therefore impenetrable process that they don’t feel they can get involved in. If we can get it to a place where people genuinely feel that their comments and feedback will start to effect how their community looks.

Missed this Third Thursday? Read the recap.

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