Home Page ContentPress Releases Birmingham Awarded IBM Smarter Cities Challenge Grant – IBM to help develop a city-wide strategic decision-making tool

Birmingham Awarded IBM Smarter Cities Challenge Grant – IBM to help develop a city-wide strategic decision-making tool

by david.nunes


IBM to help develop a city-wide strategic decision-making tool

Birmingham, UK – March 16, 2012: Birmingham City Council today announced that IBM (NYSE: IBM) has selected it to receive an IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grant. The grant provides Birmingham City Council, the largest local authority in Europe, with access to IBM’s leading experts to help develop a strategic decision-making tool to support city-wide planning, ensuring Birmingham becomes an even better place in which to live and work.  

The IBM Smarter Cities Challenge is a competitive grant programme in which IBM is awarding a total of $50 million worth of technology and services to 100 municipalities worldwide between 2011 and 2013. Teams of specially selected IBM experts will provide Birmingham city leaders with analysis and recommendations in support of modelling the entire city’s services and in helping to achieve better outcomes in areas such as economic development, transportation, healthcare, public safety, education and the environment.

Cllr Mike Whitby, Leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “Birmingham has proved itself, yet again, a force to be reckoned with on the world stage; competing with over 140 cities from around the world to be the first English city to achieve this accolade. This recognition from IBM will hopefully provide the basis for a stronger, lasting relationship and the start of a strategic partnership. The modelling work that we have done in Birmingham, and which forms the basis of our successful bid, shows that this city is leading the way in understanding our own city dynamics – its pathways to outcomes.”

The successful bid outlined the desire for Birmingham to develop a sophisticated strategic city ’simulator’ to support future investment decisions, and that helps identify ways to maximise and accelerate jobs and long term growth in Birmingham; increase the collective city investment in economically productive activities that reduce spending on recurring social costs; and break cycles of dependency and reduce the demand on ‘treatment’ services.

The model will track the key relationships between council interventions, costs and outcomes achieved, using the best available data. Such information can include everything from school test scores, smartphone adoption, crime statistics, foot and vehicle traffic, to tax revenue and library usage.  The city is taking a whole systems approach to explore causal chains and relationships. It is seeking to identify those pathways and clusters of interventions that will have the greatest impact on creating a high quality of life for its residents.

Over the course of a few weeks the IBM experts will work with key city leaders to provide advice on the different modelling approaches required for different parts of the city’s systems. They will provide guidance on data gathering, real-time processing, data analytics and visualisation. To help ensure the best possible outcomes they will also advise on stakeholder engagement strategy.

Cllr Paul Tilsley, Chair of the Digital Birmingham Partnership, said: “We think that a city that has deep understanding of the multiple impacts of all its interventions and how they work together has a powerful mechanism for directing its investments in a smart way. This is smart strategy for a smart city. In addition, the ability for Birmingham to demonstrate such insight will attract further external investment to our city.”

Stephen Hughes, Chief Executive of Birmingham City Council and project sponsor, added: “The approach being taken is ground-breaking, such a model does not exist anywhere in the country. We believe Birmingham, working together with IBM, can provide a world-class template for how city government can transform outcomes for its citizens, based on state-of-the-art understanding of the city as a ‘system of systems’, and exploiting integrated digital technology platforms across all sectors to create a truly Smarter Birmingham.”

IBM selected cities that made the strongest case for participating in the Smarter Cities Challenge.

“The cities that have been selected are all different, but they had one clear similarity: the strong personal commitment by the city’s leadership to put in place the changes needed to help the city make smarter decisions,” said Mark Wakefield, IBM UK Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs Manager. “These cities demonstrated a desire to set an example for other municipalities, an eagerness to collaborate with multiple stakeholders, and a strong commitment to consider implementing recommendations the city felt would be the most feasible and beneficial to their residents.”

Both the council and IBM fully expect that the model will be of major interest to other councils, particularly the larger metropolitan councils in the UK and similar cities elsewhere in Europe.

During Smarter Cities Challenge engagements, IBM helps recipients using tools such as its free website called City Forward (http://www.cityforward.org).  

The site gives policy makers, citizen-advocates and the public a new perspective on how their respective cities are performing compared with others. It captures vital statistics on the performance of many specific services such as education, safety, health, transportation, land use, utilities, energy, environment, personal income, spending, population growth and employment.  Users can then gather, compare, analyse, visualise, and discuss statistical trends, giving them real-world insight that can help shape public policy.


The initiative has the full support of all partners on the Local Strategic Partnership (Be Birmingham), Digital Birmingham and the Local Enterprise Partnership.

The Smarter Cities Challenge is sponsored by IBM’s Corporate Citizenship program and IBM’s International Foundation. IBM has been a leader in corporate social responsibility and citizenship for 100 years. To learn more about IBM’s corporate citizenship initiatives, please visit: www.citizenibm.com

The approximate value of each Smarter Cities Challenge grant is equivalent to as much as US$400,000 (approx £250k).  To find out more about IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grants, please visit http://smartercitieschallenge.org/  and http://www.youtube.com/user/citizenIBM

The award to Birmingham marks the second such grant to a UK city. In 2011 Glasgow City Council received a grant. For further information: ibm.com/press/uk/en/pressrelease/36065.wss

For further information on Birmingham City Council, visit: www.birmingham.gov.uk

For further information on the Digital Birmingham partnership, visit: www.digitalbirmingham.co.uk

Media Contacts

Deborah Harries, Head of News, Birmingham City Council
Phone: 0121 303 4777  
Email: deborah.harries@birmingham.gov.uk

John Galvez, UK External Relations, IBM
Mobile: 07734 104275
Email: john.galvez@uk.ibm.com



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