Catalonia chooses University of Bristol as new smart city partner

Pro Vice-Chancellor Dr Erik Lithander with Jordi Puigneró, Catalan minister for Digital Technology and President of i2CAT.

Catalan’s Minister for Digital Policies and president of the i2CAT Foundation has signed a new partnership with the University of Bristol to advance smart city and 5G research and innovation in their city regions.

A smart city uses digital technology to improve the lives of its people and environment. And both the University of Bristol and i2CAT Internet Research Centre in Catalonia are already world leaders in this field of research.

In 2018, the two cities became the first in Europe to create urban 5G testbeds. This, combined with widely connected city infrastructure, has transformed them into living labs, where smart services can be created and tested in a real-world environment.

This allows citizens to experience new forms of transport, healthcare, education, waste collection, air quality and other critical services, enhancing the quality of life for a growing number of city dwellers.

The ‘memorandum of understanding’ between the University of Bristol and i2CAT will help create new technologies and provide a blueprint for urban centres around the world.

Smart technology in both cities is already making an impact. The University of Bristol’s 5G test-network has supported the digital transformation of key sectors including public safety, transport, tourism, energy and health and social care.

Barcelona’s 5G ambulances can receive real-time video support while carrying a patient and will soon be connected to city infrastructure to ensure they have clear roads on the way to hospital. This technology could also support the first remote real-time video-assisted surgery, which will save lives. i2CAT is a founding member of the 5GBarcelona initiative.

Earlier this year, the University of Bristol received £100 million of public and private funding to establish the Bristol Digital Futures Institute which, alongside its Smart Internet Lab, makes the institution a leading centre for new models of innovation that will transform future society and industry.

Professor Dimitra Simeonidou, Director of Smart Internet Lab and Co-director of Bristol Digital Futures Institute, said: “Cities across the world are adopting digital technology to address key challenges for the benefit of their citizens. And I’m very proud that University of Bristol is at the forefront of digital research, driving urban innovation.

“This MoU will formalise a long-standing collaboration with i2CAT/Barcelona, an institution with which we share common vision, principles and expertise. I’m now looking forward to developing new models of urban transformation that are fit for our future society.”

Professor Susan Halford, Co-director of Bristol Digital Futures Institute, said: “Bristol Digital Futures Institute has been set up to change the way we develop digital technologies. We’ll build partnerships with our citizens and create technologies that address the challenges of the digital age, such as data privacy, algorithmic bias and the wider issues of inequality and inclusion. Our partnership will ensure smart cities are developed to benefit all of us.”

Jordi Puigneró, Catalan Minister for Digital Technology and President of i2CAT, said: “We want Barcelona to be the ‘5G capital’ of southern Europe and we are developing a genuine digital agenda to enable Catalonia to become an international hub.

“Smart digital technologies will form the basis of the prosperous nations. Countries such as the United Kingdom has already embarked on a no-return path to creating a new model of governance in which digital technologies will play a decisive role.

“This is why this memorandum with the University of Bristol is so important for us: together we will foster innovation and set the foundations of the new digital revolution.”

Dr Sergi Figuerola, CTIO of i2CAT and CTO of 5G Barcelona said: “5G is a game changer and collaboration between research institutions is key. I am very happy to set-up and consolidate this collaboration between University of Bristol and i2CAT.

“We’ve been working together for more than 12 years and will now build on this relationship to make a greater impact on industry and our cities, involving 5GBarcelona too.

“I consider Professor Dimitra Simeonidou a leader in the research community, and someone with whom I feel honoured to collaborate.”

By working more closely together, the two Institutions also hope to:

  • Develop new research and innovation models launched by citizens.
  • Promote new open innovation models between research centres for digital technologies in Catalonia and West England.
  • Identify ways to promote entrepreneurship among women and boost their participation to the digital economy.
  • Define 5G pilot projects to benefit both regions and have a social impact.
  • Encourage more senior researchers from Bristol to 5G postgraduate programs developed in Catalonia.

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