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UK's Innovation Centre Awards £200K Funding To Overhaul Outdated Planning System

Related themes: Integrated Urban Planning

Future Cities Catapult has today (14 March) awarded nine Small and Medium-sized Enterprises and Local Planning Authorities £200,000 to support the development of new tools and innovations to transform the planning system.

The UK’s centre of excellence in urban innovation awarded the funds after inviting UK businesses, individuals, entrepreneurs and planning authorities to develop ideas to create a more data-driven and digitally enabled planning system.

Nearly 90 entries were received, demonstrating the clear need for innovation in the planning sector. Proposals submitted included:

  • using data to identify land for housing developments
  • managing the impact of new developments on school and GP capacity
  • augmented reality to allow citizens to see future developments by holding up their phone or tablet.

Using data and technology to improve cities is an area of rapid development, and is fast becoming part of modern infrastructure planning. This announcement of the winners comes as the UK Government continues its Industrial Strategy consultation, of which innovation, improving infrastructure, and growing UK businesses are key priorities.

The winners will have 12 weeks to develop prototypes that will help achieve a more transparent, inclusive and certain planning system.

The competition followed a recent report published by Future Cities Catapult that identified the key challenges facing planning authorities around the UK.

Euan Mills, Planning and Urban Design Lead at Future Cities Catapult, said:

“For years we’ve heard how the planning system is broken, and how it hasn’t delivered the number of homes we need or the types of places we want to live in.

“Our Future of Planning programme focuses primarily on how we plan, rather than what we plan for, and creates critical space to experiment; allowing those involved in the planning system to think how it could be done differently.

“We’re excited to work with the winners of our Open Call as they develop and test prototypes to build a faster, more transparent and equitable planning system.”

Richard Blythe, Head of Policy and Research at the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), said:

“Big data and digital innovation present an opportunity to create a more integrated, flexible and inclusive planning system. The RTPI is working closely with Future Cities Catapult to explore this agenda as a member of the project board, and the funding announced today is a major step forward.

“We look forward to seeing the experimental planning tools and processes developed by the winning applicants, and will continue to support Future Cities Catapult in considering their wider application.”

Dr. Sebastian Weise, Director of PlaceChangers, said:

“We are extremely happy to work with the Future Cities Catapult on ideas for a flexible and responsive planning system.

“In our project, we look forward to rethink how we collect, sort, and share the data that goes into land supply that is ultimately crucial in resolving the housing crises.”


Notes to Editors:

For interview requests or further information about the Future of Planning, contact Naomi Moore on nmoore@futurecities.catapult.org.uk / 07718 584331

The winning SMEs will receive between £10-20K each to develop and demonstrate concepts and prototypes that address the following challenges:

  • Data informed planning: to bring together, open up, and visualise existing planning data in one place
  • Flexible planning: ensuring that planning is adaptable and holistic, taking into account economics, political and technological changes to better forecast impact and spot trends.
  • Improved user experience of planning applications: to increase transparency and understanding for applicants who are engaging with the system.
  • Increasing citizen influence: so that citizens are engaged from the start of the project, in setting the vision and objectives rather than at the ‘objections’ stage.

The full list of winners are:

HACT/OCSI are developing a neighbourhood insight web-tool aggregating government open-data and other data to neighbourhood planning boundaries.

PlaceChangers are making it easier for local councils to compile, update, and coordinate their local development land portfolio with other stakeholders.

The Behaviouralist are applying machine learning and satellite image recognition to identify opportunities for green infrastructure.

A London local authority is working on a mapping and analytics tool that brings together housing and social infrastructure data under one spatial platform to represent and test current and future growth scenarios.

Toolz are creating a custom-made 3D interface that would allow planning officers to assess development proposals within a live 3D model of the city.

Wikihouse + Southwark Planning Division are building an online tool to improve and automate aspects of householder planning applications.

Linknode Ltd is exploring the use of augmented reality to visualise unbuilt development proposals at public consultation.

Create Streets are working on an online tool permitting users to measure the quality of a place, and gives analysis of correlations between urban form with wellbeing, health, happiness and value.

ODI Leeds are working on two projects:

  • PDFs for Planners is exploring how commonly used planning documents could update in real time from data in the cloud.
  • ‘A clearer plan’ is bringing together existing open data in a tool for those that want to submit a planning application or understand the local housing picture.

About Future Cities Catapult                                

Future Cities Catapult exists to advance innovation, to grow UK companies, to make cities better. We bring together businesses, universities and city leaders so that they can work with each other to solve the problems that cities face, now and in the future. This means that we catalyse and apply innovations to grow UK business and promote UK exports.

From our Urban Innovation Centre in London, we provide world-class facilities and expertise to support the development of new products and services, as well as opportunities to collaborate with others, test ideas and develop business models.

We help innovators turn ingenious ideas into working prototypes that can be tested in real urban settings. Then, once they’re proven, we help spread them to cities across the world to improve quality of life, strengthen economies and protect the environment.

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About Catapult centres

The Catapult centres are a network of world-leading centres designed to transform the UK’s capability for innovation in specific areas and help drive future economic growth. The Catapults network has been established by Innovate UK.

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