Imperial College London has received £5.9 million in government funding to investigate how digital technologies can help cities run more effectively.
The grant, from Research Councils UK, will fund the university’s Digital City Exchange programme, in which researchers will collect and analyse data from government, transport, consumers and businesses, to help improve the use and planning of cities.
Professor David Gann, head of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Group at Imperial College Business School, said: "This programme is about using the city as a lab and working with real data through industry partners to benefit growth and jobs.
“By creating a platform for simulated services, existing companies and entrepreneurs will be able to evaluate and explore their business concepts, leading to faster identification of opportunities and a smoother and quicker path to market.”
The researchers believe that having an integrated approach to planning cities – considering all resources including transport, utilities and infrastructure – will enable city operators to better manage peak demand across sectors, stabilise prices, conserve resources and create capacity for city businesses to grow.
The programme is also expected encourage the development of new apps to make life simpler for city users, and new business models will be created to make digital opportunities commercially viable.
Professor Eric Yeatman, deputy head of the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Imperial, said: "A simple example would be allowing you to see how full a train is before you get there. When data from many sources are combined, more sophisticated apps will emerge in energy saving, security, health, and many other areas."
Meanwhile, David Willetts, minister for Universities and Science, added: "Our personal lives are becoming increasingly linked through social media and it’s a great idea to see this concept being extended to utilities and services in our cities.
“This project has the potential to bring real-life benefits, from preventing traffic jams to managing water resources."
The Digital City Exchange programme brings together a number of disciplines at Imperial, including computing, electrical and electronic engineering, the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Group at Imperial College Business School, the departments of chemical engineering and chemical technology and civil engineering.