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Smart Nation 2020

  • Date to come - Contact Us
  • The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester
  • 08:30 - 16:30
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  • Overview

The fourth industrial revolution is upon us. The UK will need to apply emerging technologies in a coherent and cost-effective manner to thrive - particularly in a competitive, post-Brexit landscape. This CPD accredited conference programme will present models and initiatives that operate at national and local levels to deliver integrated services and information that citizens need - assessing how they can be adapted to the UK's infrastructure, geography and economy to create a coherent strategy for a Smart Nation that embraces transformation in the way services are delivered in cities, towns, healthcare, connectivity and agricultural settings.   

Keynotes and panel discussions will spotlight smart metropolitan and agricultural initiatives such as:

  • Domestic 5G roll-out; its impact on public and autonomous services, farming and bridging socio-economic gaps by providing internet access to communities that have previously been excluded from connectivity.
  • Interconnection of IoT devices in agriculture; unmanned aerial/ground vehicles identifying potential soil defects, providing accurate timings for sowing, irrigation and harvest as well as supporting systems of sensors that provide metrics on humidity, exposure to light and soil moisture. Allowing farmers to work remotely.
  • How smart developers must work in unison with environmentally conscious solutions to secure sustainable technologies and reduce net carbon emissions.
  • Government-commissioned home construction using smart technologies – improving the way towns, precincts, and buildings are planned and equipping homes with solar panels, smart lighting and pneumatic waste collection.   
  • Regulating against a backdrop of concerns about overreach and access to citizen’s data. Developing and enforcing policies/safeguards to protect citizens from hostile manipulations of data, attacks on digital infrastructure and infringements on citizen’s rights.
  • Can the delivery of smart models overcome some of the complex and often competitive political and institutional structures that have developed for delivering UK public services.
  • Confirmed Speakers

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  • Event Programme


Registration and Coffee in the Networking Area


Chair's Opening Address


Keynote Address

  • Foo Chi Hsia, High Commissioner, Republic of Singapore (confirmed)

The blueprint for a Smart Nation is provided by Singapore, which aims by 2024 to be the first nation to achieve this. Whilst the Singapore model cannot be transposed en-bloc to the UK – the geography of the two nations is completely different, with Singapore having a much higher population density - there is much that can be adapted to benefit the UK:

  • Leveraging technology and assistive robotics in healthcare can sustain independent living for the elderly, improve patients access to healthcare, support disabled people in completing activities and transporting food, linen documents and heavy items around medical estates.
  • Autonomous vehicles are the future of Singapore’s public transport network. The nation has developed self-driving cars, trucks and is exploring the deployment of autonomous freight transportation services at non-peak times to ease congestion.
  • Academic and Industrial Partnerships are being developed in Singapore’s Punggol Digital District – a co-location of the Singapore Institute of Technology’s new campus and JTC Corporation business parks, Punggol is a purpose-built community based on a relationship between academia and industry to develop, test and apply digital innovations.
  • National Strategic Projects such as a single, digital, cross-government platform to enable the delivery of better, personalised and more cost effective digital services to citizens using common tools and standards throughout government.
  • Tony Sceales, Sector Coordination Lead, 5G Programme, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (confirmed)
"5G in the UK"

Multiple barriers are obstructing local authorities in the UK from taking advantage of Smart initiatives. The absence of accessible knowledge and learning materials available to councils, a lack of appropriate training opportunities and damaging cuts to local authority budgets result in abandoning projects that, if the resources were available, could make considerably impacts on local housing, transport, health and social care issues. The next generation of cellular network technology could open-up new possibilities for communities in the UK, including improved public transport, enhanced security, free internet access, IoT connectivity and reduced carbon emissions.

The roll-out of 5G in the UK could help to bridge socio-economic gaps between communities, with quick and easy access to free, high speed internet - communities that have been locked out of opportunities due to a lack of connection can begin to access online capabilities.


'The speed of ICT development creates unprecedented opportunities and risks. It can make it practically impossible for governments to develop appropriate regulation in order to avoid dangerous outcomes... The complex dynamics between ICT development and ICT governance can be described as co-evolution. Rather than playing the role of clients for technology companies, cities should be partners and enablers in ICT development, regulation, incentivisation and implementation. Essential in the co-evolutionary process will be the development of appropriate new governance structures to ensure that sociotechnological development is guided towards societal goals.'

Sustainable Smart Cities: Applying Complexity Science to Achieve Urban Sustainability, 

United Nations University, Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability.


This presentation will explore the complex regulatory dynamics at play in the co-evolution between governance and Smart cities, Big Data and the Internet of Things.


Main Sponsor


Question & Answer Session

  • Tony Sceales, Sector Coordination Lead, 5G Programme, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (confirmed)
  • Dr Deljana Iossifova, Senior Lecturer in Urban Studies, The University of Manchester (confirmed)

Coffee in the Networking Area

"Building a Smart, Sustainable Transport Network"

A Smart Nation will embrace cleaner, cheaper, faster, greener transport networks. The digital revolution, as in all areas, has profound potential to support the adoption of more equitable, efficient and cleaner transport. This presentation will look at the potential socioeconomic and environmental gains from the UK's comparative advantage in developing and deploying clean and intelligent mobility technologies that can transform transport infrastructure - particularly prescient, as Britain seeks new trade deals and carves out global economic and soft power advantages.         


Part of the wider N8 Research Partnership, DecarboN8 is a new research network comprised of experts from the North’s eight most research-intensive universities collaborating with government, industry and the third sector to explore new ways of decarbonising transport in the UK. The DecarboN8 programme aims to create an innovative test bed environment allowing for the trialling and accelerated adoption of low carbon transport solutions – with a focus on tackling surface level emissions from cars, vans, busses HGVs and trains; accounting for 26% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the project is currently taking applications for seedcorn funding from research teams across the UK; encouraging new inter-and-multi disciplinary collaborations, the development of Early Career Researchers and teams utilising a place-based approach reflecting the diversity of people, places and journeys currently under-served by the dominant focus on city-centres and commuter travel. Some areas of interest that the network has identified through local stakeholder consultations, workshops and from its thematic priorities, include:

  • Reducing barriers to multi-modal travel through innovative solutions such as re-imagining interchange points.
  • Understanding inequalities in the spatial and social distribution of carbon consumption.
  • Linking developments in the electrification of vehicles, provision of charging infrastructure and local energy systems.
  • Developing the social acceptability and societal readiness of policy, technology, infrastructure and innovation.

Professor Greg Marsden leads on the DecarboN8 project as is Professor of Transport Governance, part of the Institute for Transport Studies at the University of Leeds.


Professor Lisa Collins, N8 Chair in Smart Agri-Systems

Professor Bruce Grieve, N8 Chair in Agri-Sensors & Electronics

"Digi Agriculture"

Agricultural productivity must increase as the global population grows and the amount of farmland-per-capita decreases – agrifood and environmental policy must lead to sustainable food systems, protect natural resources, secure food supplies that meet individual and collective needs, as well as encourage good decision making along the production, distribution, consumption and disposal chain. The N8 Agrifood network combines the expertise of the North’s eight most research-intensive universities, collaborating with government, industry, NGOs, SMEs and charities to confront the full scope of food security challenges, structuring its work into three research themes; sustainable food production, resilient supply chains and healthier consumption.


The agriculture sector is being disrupted by the digital revolution; using new technologies, farmers can grow crops with greater efficiently, monitor harvests more precisely and reduce carbon emissions. Emerging technology at the forefront of digital agriculture include:

  • Real time data gathering: Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), unmanned ground vehicles (UGV) and deep learning algorithms allow for the monitoring of crop health, identification of potential soil defects as well as providing accurate timings for sowing, irrigation and harvest. With the integration of IoT connectivity and a system of sensors that provide metrics on humidity, exposure to light and soil moisture – farmers can monitor their fields from anywhere.
  • Autonomous Vehicles: Satellite monitoring and drone technology allows for automated spraying of nutrients across crop fields – as well as capturing images and transmitting information about crop health to IoT connected devices.

This presentation will look at Smart systems approaches to solving agricultural challenges, improving animal welfare and reducing carbon emissions across food systems and chains.


Question and Answer Session

Laurie Laybourn-Langton, Associate Fellow, Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) (confirmed)

Professor Greg Marsden, Professor of Transport Governance, University of Leeds (confirmed)

Professor Lisa Collins, Professor in Animal Science, University of Leeds (invited)

Professor Bruce Grieve, N8 AgriFood Sustainable Food Production Academic Lead, The University of Manchester (invited)


Lunch in the Networking Area

A hot, two-course lunch consisting of multiple options will be provided for delegates. We cater for all dietary requirements, including vegetarian, vegan and gluten/dairy-free; just notify us ahead of time should you have any allergens or requirements.


Chair's Afternoon Address


Case Study


Case Study


Speaker TBC


Question & Answer Session


Afternoon Refreshment Break


Panel Discussion: How to Develop the UK into a Smart Nation

Traffic is time-consuming and according to government figures, has risen by almost a third in the UK (traffic rates rose from 255bn miles travelled a year in 1990, to 328bn in 2018)  – contributing to carbon emissions in the UK despite the introduction of more fuel-efficient vehicles on our roads. A Smart Nation would address these sluggish gas emissions; but how? Flying cars have long been a hypothetical solution to traffic, but the smart solution may be under our feet as opposed to above our heads.


Networks of underground tunnels are being developed across the globe for multiple reasons, including:

  • Express transportation systems: High-speed underground public transportation systems in which passengers are transported via compatible Autonomous Electric Vehicles.
  • Urban underground logistics system: Where urban freight volume has increased rapidly, pressure on road traffic has risen. Underground networks could manage freight delivery efficiently whilst reducing the carbon emissions that large scale freight delivery is responsible for.

Chair's Closing Remarks and Conference Close

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The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester

The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester

Construction of The Bridgewater Hall commenced on 22 March 1993, but the idea of a new concert hall for Manchester dates back to the reconstruction of the Free Trade Hall in the 1950s after wartime bomb damage. The Free Trade Hall was home to the city’s famous Hallé orchestra and also hosted rock and pop concerts. However, despite holding great public affection, the 1850s Free Trade Hall was ill-equipped to respond to the rising standards of service and acoustic excellence demanded by performers and audiences.

Featured Events

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  • Housing and Health: Working in Partnership

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  • Smart Cities and Communities: Solving Urban Challenges

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