West Berkshire joins new £1.7m Smart City Cluster

Data and communication platform project aims to improve quality of life in Berkshire

Thames Valley Berkshire LEP chief  executive Tim Smith

Thames Valley Berkshire LEP chief executive Tim Smith

MORE than £1.7m of Local Growth Funds has been committed to a ‘Smart City Cluster’ project covering West Berkshire.

The project, due to start this month, also includes Reading, Wokingham and Bracknell, and will deliver a smart city communications and data platform benefiting residents and employees and encouraging economic development.

It will support a range of projects around transport, energy, environment and assisted living, with a package focused on small-scale funding for start-ups, and has the potential to be accessed across the whole of Berkshire.

The project will be delivered by Reading Borough Council, in collaboration with the other partner authorities, with project management from Peter Brett Associates, and follows the production of a detailed Investment Strategy by the borough.

Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) director and technology lead David Parry-Jones said: “This is an important step-change for the LEP, investing in smart technology in addition to hard and digital infrastructure.

“The Smart City Cluster is intended to act as a catalyst for both the public sector and private sector.”

Reading Borough Council network manager Simon Beasley said: “The scheme has the potential to attract funding for research, business investment and start-ups in developing smart products, as well as delivering an assisted living element to improve the lives of those with mobility challenges.

“It is hoped that the project could also bring about significant environmental benefits in improved infrastructure network management services to smooth vehicle flow, improve fuel economy, reduce emissions and air quality risk.”

Peter Brett Associates director of ITS Rob McDonald said: “The purpose of this project is to support the development of smart city solutions in order to improve the quality of life in Berkshire and open up huge opportunities for the low-cost deployment of smart devices for business, developers and local authorities to use.”

Thames Valley Berkshire LEP is also investing a further £3m in its ongoing support to business growth.

Two funding calls worth nearly £1.5m have been launched via the European Regional Development Fund and both focus on research and innovation.

The first supports the shift to innovative technology and aims to make Thames Valley Berkshire a more energy-efficient, greener place to live and do business.

The scheme is worth £432,671 and aims to encourage providers to improve services and sustainability, including activities in planning, transport, energy and health.

The larger of the two funding calls, ‘Digital Enabling Technologies Knowledge to Market Accelerator’, is worth £600,000 through a multi-LEP call (Thames Valley Berkshire LEP, Enterprise M3 LEP, Dorset LEP, Solent LEP, Coast to Capital LEP and South East LEP).

The specification, in line with the recommendations of the Innovation South Science and Innovation Audit, sets to pull emerging technologies from the research and development stage into the market, allowing for economic growth.

Thames Valley Berkshire LEP chief executive Tim Smith said: “These funding opportunities open the door for investment in key economic priorities for our sub region.

“I would encourage all businesses within our tech clusters to explore the opportunities they offer to accelerate growth in these emerging and competitive markets.”