How creative partnerships are helping a UK town reach its smart city goals

Readers know that the Council regularly advises cities to partner with each other and the private sector to ensure successful outcomes for their smart city projects. If you attended Smart Cities Week in Washington, D.C. earlier this month you heard how valuable those partnerships and collaboration can be in planning smart transportation networks. The story below outlines another example of how creative partnerships can advance smart city initiatives. — Doug Peeples

Several UK cities and towns are acknowledged as smart city leaders for their accomplishments and the progress they've made on their smart city initiatives. Milton Keynes, a town of about 230,000 in southern England, is one of them.

Last year the town, locally referred to as MK, embarked on its MK:Smart project focused on economic development and a variety of smart city solutions ranging from traffic congestion reduction to smart energy and water use, as well as an IoT ecosystem to support those operations and others.

The community also is working with Open University on a study to determine which types of citizens and visitors are most likely to take advantage of smart city technologies and policies. The intent of the study is to ensure that smart city projects chosen are as inclusive and beneficial as possible.

Creative partnerships
To further augment its efforts, MK recently signed a partnership agreement with the Chinese smart city of Yinchuan and Council Global Lead Partner ZTE, a multinational telecommunications company based in Shenzhen, China. First on the agenda will be developing a CityLab project with ZTE, Open University and the MK Council. ZTE is investing about $1.3 million in technical support for digital businesses in and around the community.

The partnership agreement also calls for additional projects such as the possibility of 5G technology pilot projects in both Yinchuan and MK.

MK Council Leader Peter Marland explained the reason for the partnership this way: "The Chinese city of Yinchuan is small by Chinese standards, only two million people, but like Milton Keynes is new and fast-growing with an international reputation for smart city innovation. In keeping with our pioneering tradition the link with ZTE is the first of its kind and will bring industry investment into practical projects for both cities."

As ZTE's Bob Dowell further explained, "This ground breaking agreement allows for the collaboration, learning and development of smart solutions focusing around both cities' smart city aspirations and the low latency access networks that will deliver the speed required.

Doug Peeples is a Portland, Oregon-based writer specializing in technology and energy. Follow @smartccouncil on Twitter.