Ten of the best urban innovations that are having a positive effect on quality of life and economic development were recently compiled in a new report by the Global Agenda Council on the Future of Cities . All of those innovations are already having a positive effect on quality of life and economic development.
According the World’s Economic Forum humanity faces the mammoth task of adding over 2 billion people to the urban population before 2050. This is the equivalent of creating a city the size of London or San Francisco every month for the next two decades. In order to house, feed and employ these people, cities will have to do more with less; they’ll have to be smarter, greener and more efficient. They will have to innovate.
The report “Top Ten Urban Innovations” chronicles 10 of the best examples from around the world of how cities are creating innovative solutions to a variety of problems. Many of these solutions are scalable, replicable and can be adapted to a variety of specific urban environments. Some are possible only due to new technologies while others apply technology to ideas that are as old as the city itself.
According the authors of the report, within these innovations, four principles surface again and again. They can be seen as a core framework to find innovative solutions to complex urban problems:
Unleashing spare capacity: Many innovations cleverly make use of existing yet underutilized resources. Airbnb, for example, enables the renting out of unused private homes; co-locating schools and recreational facilities enables public-private sharing of space; and the circular economy provides opportunities to reuse, recycle and upcycle.
Cutting out the peaks: From electricity and water to roads and public transport, upwards of 20% of capacity sits idle for much of the time ready to cope with demand peaks; cutting out these peaks with technology-enabled demand management or innovative pricing structures can significantly limit the burden on financial and natural resources.
Small-scale infrastructure thinking: Cities will always need large-infrastructure projects, but sometimes small- scale infrastructure – from cycle lanes and bike sharing to the planting of trees for climate change adaptation – can also have a big impact on an urban area.
People-centred innovation: The best way to improve a city is by mobilizing its citizens. From smart traffic lights
to garbage taxes, innovations in technology, services and governance are not ends in themselves but means to shape the behaviour and improve the lives of the city’s inhabitants. All innovations should be centred on the citizen, adhering to the principles of universal design and usable by people of all ages and abilities.
Read the whole report here.