The event, organised by Innovation Birmingham and Transport Systems Catapult brought together speakers from a start-up, major IT company and the public sector, to try and establish whether Birmingham had the potential to become a global leader in new transport technologies.
Over the course of the afternoon, there were several strands of thought on the link between the institutions and characteristics of Birmingham and the wider West Midlands region and its suitability as a ‘living lab’ for new transport technologies.
Birmingham sits at the heart of England, giving it a geographical advantage as a transport hub – and by extension, a logical location to develop a smart, low carbon transport system. Chair of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) Andy Street highlighted how this could feed into the city region’s ambitions for the HS2 project: not to be “the end of the line”, but the centre. This was not solely about location, but also a challenge to make Birmingham the home of the associated engineering and technological support, research and development that accompanies such a key infrastructure project.
An associated point to location is size: Birmingham is a large city, the largest local authority in Europe: solutions that work here will be applicable to other large conurbations. And as Paul Zanelli, Chief Technology Officer for the Transport Systems Catapult noted, these solutions are as much about identifying what you no longer need to travel for – for example, if high speed internet is regionally available, homeworking (or working in other spaces closer to home) becomes more viable.
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