SAP’s global VP of Urban Matters, Sean O’Brien, has said that the UK’s cities are falling behind their global peers as austerity stifles innovation in the development of smart city applications, which could be of benefit to millions citizens across the country.
O’Brien also claimed at an SAP hosted roundtable this week in London that the UK government doesn’t recognise that the majority of growth is driven out of its cities, which should propel increased investment in making them smarter, more efficient and easier to live in.
His comments came in response to comments made by Joe Dignan, chief public sector analyst at Ovum, who said in response to a question from Computerworld UK that the UK is “pretty bloody good” at smart city initiatives, when compared to other cities globally.
Dignan said: “Scandinavia has obviously been doing this for years, and they’re pretty good at it, but the UK can catch up pretty quickly and it’s a pretty innovative area. I would say we are way ahead of the US.”
SAP’s O’Brien picked up on this point and adamantly disagreed, saying that he doesn’t hear anyone in any of the global cities talking about the UK’s innovation.
“The US gets it – San Francisco, Boston, New York are all driving innovation. That sort of drive around innovation isn’t something you see in the UK. I don’t think people recognise the value of cities and urban settlements in driving the economy the way they do in the US, in India, and in China,” said O’Brien.
“Okay, cities have more power in the US than they do outside London in the UK, but what I don’t hear in the UK is the same focus around innovation that I do in the US, that I do in China, that I do in Australia.”
He added: “I don’t want to get political, but when I used to travel around I used to hear about the UK as an icon for e-government policy, for transformation, for online services – even some of the guys that used to work in the UK went to Australia as gurus. That’s not there anymore.”
SAP’s Urban Matters initiative draws on using its cloud, mobile and in-memory HANA analytics technologies to drive smarter use of applications in cities. For example, O’Brien described how an urban area could use mobile to conduct real-time polling in a city on any issues that were up for debate, or how alerts could be driven out to citizens in real-time on issues that could impact them.
“If we want to innovate out of austerity and out of the challenges that Europe and the West has, it has to be through the cities. It’s through the urban settlements, it’s through innovation and it’s through technology,” said O’Brien.
“I travel a lot outside of Europe and they get it. I think the innovation mentality is being restrained by austerity in the UK. It’s really frustrating, I go out there and I wonder where all the innovation in Europe has gone.”