Innovation and cities: Practical Solutions

Innovation and cities: Practical Solutions
Highlights

Innovation and cities: Practical Solutions, A garden bridge over River Thames between Waterloo Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge could begin in 2015 as an important landmark of London.

A garden bridge over River Thames between Waterloo Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge could begin in 2015 as an important landmark of London. The 1200-foot bridge consists of public spaces and garden with 270 trees along with shrubs, climbing plants, hedges and flowers. Mayor Boris Johnson looks forward to open and give free access to the people in 2018. It is an innovative idea with a huge investment in turn encourages walking, improve mental and physical health of children, youth, and old age population. The capital investment made in the project might not give any immediate financial returns to the local government. But the benefits the user will get in terms of green walking area with a lot of improvement in health will be the gain.

Innovation is important for growth and success. Even though innovation is used more in business planning terms, it is very much attached to planning of cities and towns. It is because the processes and end product of innovation is useful to the society as goods and services.

The city of Medellin has recently been chosen as the Most Innovative City of the Year by Citi, the Wall Street Journal and the Urban Land Institute, due to its incredible transformation. The innovative projects implemented in the city includes (a) creation of 1.6 million square meters of new park space throughout 25 parks and 11 urban promenades, (b) a cable car and public bicycle system, (c) a ride sharing programme, (d) an intelligent mobility system (SIMM) and (e) vehicle exhaust emissions control. Medellin attracts visitors due to its eternal spring weather as well as its beautiful landscape and endless places of interest to visit.

Cities around the world support very different types of innovation and some are more successful than others. Cities focus on technology led innovation and creation of new products in the service. It is observed that there are differences in terms of innovation performance between cities in the UK: London and cities in the greater South East have developed highly successful innovation ecosystems while cities in the north of England developed an innovation typology of cities such as high performing innovative cities, service sector innovators, technological innovators, innovative potential and low innovation cities. The high performing innovative cities are highly productive, specialised in a range of knowledge intensive innovative sectors, and benefit from a concentration of skilled labour.

Creativity is important to make innovation. Innovations also have life cycles: something may be innovative at one time but it needs reinvention. Urban affairs are largely managed by local government and they expect commercial returns. But it also gives social benefits. The criteria may involve public good arguments and actions: it includes reductions in resource use or pollution levels; the encouragement of social cohesion and reduction of social fragmentation; affecting changes in behaviour such as a move from private car use to public transport; or greater appreciation of the potential benefits of intercultural understanding or stimulation of new kinds of business activity. These initiatives may give commercial benefits but it definitely adds to cities attractiveness, competitiveness and quality of life of people.


Innovations either in business or in city planning need preparedness and practicing the following aspects are very important for the successful practice of innovation. It is (a) Multi-dimensional: innovations can involve end products; technology used; technique and procedures applied; processes such as consultation; implementation mechanisms; how problems are redefined; who the target audience is; how behavioural impacts can be achieved and particular professional contexts are viewed. (b) time and space dependence: innovations develop and are emulated, usually both at particular times and in specific geographical space. (c) Cultural relativity: are there principles embedded within the idea of sustainable development that hold true, whatever the cultural circumstances and whatever the local circumstances? (d) Innovative clusters: innovations do not necessarily come singly; rather, they seem to cluster in certain places at certain times. (e) Replicability: many projects seem replicable in principle, but in reality are not, because of traditions, level of development and awareness within a particular city and its cultural context. (f) Unforeseen weaknesses: as a best practice, it can over time reveal unforeseen or invisible weaknesses which may in turn require further innovation in order to address the new found source of a problem. (g) Making institutions innovative: institutions themselves are important sources of innovative potential and can be turned into centers for innovation. This might mean, for example, changing the processes through local governments is essential.

Innovation means the process of creative thinking. It is the capacity to understand a problem in a new perspective as a new problem with making multiple possible solutions. Sometimes this can be quite fundamental. For example, mental illness could be better treated outside mental hospitals (i.e. health centers and health practices). City planning in India in an innovative way should take into account the diversity in culture of people, socio-economic differences, environment quality, political system, spatial planning approaches and governance system. It is not merely technology, money and business practices. So city and village development should focus on city and village settlement planning as well as city and village settlement management.

The write up is based on the recent reports ‘Innovative & Sustainable Cities’ by European Union and ‘What Makes the City Innovative’ by Work Foundation.

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