KEYNOTE speakers from Boston and London shared insights on how to develop more efficient and inclusive cities on the opening day of the Smaller and Smarter Cities International Symposium in Newcastle on Thursday.
Nigel Jacob, the co-founder of the Boston Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics, and Dr Ellie Cosgrave, director of the Urban Innovation and Policy Lab at University College in London, headlined a program of talks and workshops at NewSpace.
Mr Jacob delivered the opening talk, discussing the work of the Office of New Urban Mechanics - a civic innovation incubator and research and development lab within Boston's City Hall.
Mr Jacob's work over the past decade has been about making urban life better through innovative, people-oriented applications of technology and design. Some of the office's work has been adopted and reapplied in cities across the globe.
He helped City of Boston develop an app for residents to report civic issues like potholes in 2009 and a number of incarnations in the years after, including an app for city employees which allowed daily work tasks to be easily sorted and delegated.
Mr Jacob said the work wasn't all technology-based, referring to a project when City of Boston built a full-scale apartment on wheels and drove it around Boston's suburbs to help promote a planned increase in higher-density development.
"This work can be done on the cheap," Mr Jacob said later in the day. "This isn't about requisitioning whole new budgets. All you really need is a person or two with a suitable mission and autonomy. This is eminently doable and a place like Newcastle, if they're interested, could certainly do this type of work."
Dr Ellie Cosgrave, a qualified civil engineer who has branched into social sciences, gave a talk about creating inclusive cities, which explored how smart infrastructure impacts social, political and economic processes.
Symposium attendees participated in a range of workshops and panel talks later in the day, focusing on topics like the contribution of small business to shaping cities, civic collaboration, and culture and creativity as an economic driver.
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