On 12th June 2014, Kit Malthouse, Deputy Mayor of London for Enterprise, was one of the panel guests attending the morning session at the FT/IPC inaugural meeting to assess Business Transformation in the UK.
This particular session wanted to look at how cities and their local businesses need to respond to the challenges of the 21st century.
Introductions – Kit’s Plans for London
During preliminary introductions, Mr Malthouse outlined the London Strategy for City Transformation in 4 parts:
1) Making London’s transport systems more effective
2) “Self-contained” households regarding energy, consumption, waste
. Note – “Self contained” (sic) meaning self-sustaining
3) Improving collaboration with London’s social and business communities
4) Making the environment greener and cleaner
Mr Malthouse also alluded to an academic body contributing towards overall city strategy, but chose not to elaborate on the body or who was in it.
Panel Questions – Engaging Community
After the introductions, two questions from the audience were aimed at understanding how authorities get better at involving the local populous in identifying and implementing change.
One of these referred to the recent Chinese physical business park that solely focuses on idea generation and intellectual property (IP), and the questioner asked how to get passionate Brits involved from the creative ideas perspective, and tieing in to a more open agenda for change.
Guillermo Dietrich, Head of Transport, Buenos Aires
Mr Dietrich offered that it required significant education to achieve change, and the consultation process often slowed down the pace of change possible.
He also mentioned that it was hard to appease different factions within communities, and that some conflict management and horse trading was inevitable.
Summarising this component, he stated no change was possible without the assent of the populous.
Mr Dietrich also said it was important to involve the business community, in that the populous could better believe that thare was no political axe being ground, and also that changes would have a better chance at longevity and sustainability.
His final point was that population density makes a big difference in terms of being able to apply co-ordination. Very dense populations, he opined, are much harder to penetrate and make an impact.
Pedro Pires de Miranda, Corporate Vice President and Head of Global Center of Competence Cities, Siemens
Mr Pires de Miranda suggested that cities are very involved in and at the forefront of a number of global issues:
1) Net population issues – growth in the East, shrinkage in Europe
2) Ageing populations – how to provide services for changing demographics
3) Climate – how to ensure clean and healthy living environments
4) Resources – how to continue providing services with finite resources
In cities he identified two key issues for conference, being transport systems and keeping cities clean and efficient through low carbon emissions.
It was heartening to hear that there are clear visions and appreciations at a high level of the issues to be tackled. Of course, Siemens are heavily involved in city infrastructure projects, so this was doubly the case, given Mr Pires de Miranda’s role.
Kit Malthouse, Deputy Mayor of London
Interjecting a little, Mr Malthouse mentioned Talk London in relation to community participation, which is most often thought of as a Radio service, but is now attracting a small audience online.
Later Mr Malthouse was asked why this service had such a low profile, but he wasn’t sure why this would be.
(Ed – So come on Londoners, apparently the Talk London door is open, let’s push and see what happens.)
Mr Malthouse also mentioned the usage the GLA are making of Big Data. There are many transport Apps now helping Londoners commute across their busy lives, and crime statistics are now also helping the police with some leading edge predictive policing and helping communities monitor local crime levels and hot spots.
A Comparison with Startup Ecosystems
In 2013, Dave McClure, of US Startup incubator Startup 500, produced a great slide show explaining a startup ecosystem, and including this specific slide:
Primarily majoring from the more mature and established US perspective, the comparisons are interesting.
We can perhaps add two factors from a city transformation perspective: Business & Social Communities can be added to the People component, and Big Data should be added to the Product component.
Shell Pamphlet: New Lenses on Future Cities
This topic can also be viewed against a knowledge packed pamphlet from Shell, with this fascinating graphic embedded on Page 7, and many more besides:
The full pamphlet can be accessed online by clicking here.
Summarising one key point, transport is a key global issue for every city, no matter the categorisation. Again, see the Shell pamphlet for more on the types of city, and some global examples.
Two Final Questions – But No Time to Discuss Virtual Meetings
Time being finite, the panel also fielded two final audience questions, which focused on the role of buses in dense urban conurbations and the need for city waste to reduce it’s carbon footprint.
Bus & Cycle Solutions
The panel were all of the opinion that both have a critical role to play in cities, and Mr Dietrich in particular noted that cycles had a significant impact within his role as Head of Transport in Buenos Aires.
All panellists agreed that bus companies are now all moving gradually towards electric motor system buses, with the intention of reducing carbon footprints.
However, while cycles and buses feature heavily in environmental solutions to urban pollution issues, the move toward virtual connections and meetings as a key strategy in reducing pollution and carbon footprint was not covered.
This was primarily an omission of time pressure in the rather compact one hour slot, rather than intention, but it’s a subject that also merits a key place on the agenda.
The questioner here asked about plans to make waste less of an impact on carbon footprints, especially where waste has to be transported a long way outside city centres, and then the recycled materials have to be brought back in again.
Here, Mr Malthouse revisited his idea about the “self contained” (sic) house, suggesting that we need to have an effective way of taking waste to the bottom of the garden, “zapping it”, and being able to add the energy to our local energy networks.
We should mention here that Mr Malthouse lists energy solutions among his business interests, so it is not surprising he can be passionate and knowledgeable on the subject and would wish to try to engage in some public education on the subject.
This was a fascinating first session to the conference, and perhaps worthy of more time as a subject just to itself.
This correspondent hopes the conference will reappear next year, and that FT Live will kindly invite him again, as the public need to know more about and engage with these kinds of initiatives.