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Blog: Innovation cities: Glasgow

Glasgow is the biggest city in Scotland in terms of population, and is thriving with innovation, home to the world’s first X-Ray department, the location of the first long distance TV signal broadcast and not to mention being the birthplace of the Britain’s national dish, the Chicken Tikka Masala. Once an industrial powerhouse the city is now a digital tech heavyweight where business, trade and investment flourish. It impressively ranks 4th place in the UK Tech Innovation Index only behind London, Manchester and fellow Scottish city Edinburgh.


Future city

Just like in Milton Keynes, we are seeing how cities themselves can be an innovation. In 2013 Glasgow was given £29 million by Innovate UK to invest into technology that it could use in innovative ways to make the city smarter, safer, and more sustainable. Glasgow has developed a series of initiatives to showcase the exciting potential offered by smart city technology. Every day the people of Glasgow create a unique data trail as they go about their daily lives, the open data generated by the citizens of Glasgow is then used in smart ways. These innovations include:

Intelligent lighting systems – Streetlights are in every city, providing citizens and business with safety and security. However, in Glasgow they have implemented an innovative street lighting network that operates more intelligently than being simply an on-off system. This intelligent street lighting looks at ways to add more control and efficiency to lighting, using real time data. Firstly, the LED lighting reduces carbon footprint and long-term operation costs. LED lights use 90% less energy than a typical incandescent bulb. Real time data connects to the Glasgow operations centre where lights can then be brightened when required, such as when a person is walking alone along a street late at night. The lights also have built in noise detection so that street disturbances can be monitored and communicated to real time CCTV monitoring and community safety response, a smarter way to tackle crime. The movement sensors allow the monitoring of footfall and traffic flow which is used to aid city planning. Air pollution monitoring can also be integrated into the street lighting network – giving the city up-to-date and accurate data to help with planning and pollution reduction.

Active travel Software in the form of an app was developed to record cyclist’s journeys around the city. The data that this generates is used to make the city friendlier for cyclists. This data is used to inform improvements to the cycling network within the city.


These are just two examples of where open data is used in a smart way to make an interconnected smart city.  A recent report shows that the programme has had a positive effect on the local economy and residents, delivering a return on investment of £144 million.

Projects funded through this program demonstrate the innovative ways that modern technology and data can be used to make a tangible difference to the lives of people in cities across the world.

David Mundell Scottish Secretary

Tech hotspot

According to the 2018 Tech Nation report digital infrastructure is a key strength perceived by the local tech community of Glasgow. The same report sights Glasgow as being among the top cities in the UK for digital start-ups between 2006 and 2016 with an increase of 397%. Glasgow’s universities, business opportunities, and access to talent are listed as the cities top 3 strengths by local tech start-ups. A wide range of digital tech sectors are represented in the city, from fintech and ecommerce, to social networking and enterprise software.

Space technology is also taking off, as evidenced by Alba OrbitalSpire and Clyde Space. Clyde Space is an award-winning aerospace engineering company which specialises in the design, manufacture and operations of small spacecraft for an expanding space industry. Clyde Space’s team have long been considered as world leaders in the delivery of New Space technologies that push the boundaries of small satellite capabilities and utility value. Clyde Space was awarded the Queen’s Award for Enterprise for Innovation in 2017 which is renowned as being the ultimate award to win for a UK-based company, signifying commercial success because of innovation. The very same year they also won The Sunday Times award for Innovation.

The city is also holding the UK’s first two-week festival of data innovation in Scotland, Data Fest, celebrating data driven innovation. It’s just one of many tech meetups that Glasgow is becoming renowned for within the sector.

The 2018 Tech Nation Report also reveals that access to funding is a key challenge faced by the local tech community of Glasgow. However, there are funding options available that can help tech start-ups survive and thrive. We’ve helped Halpenfield who are a software development company that specialise in organising, analysing and visualising data in a way their clients can use, working with big brands like M&S, Boots and Thomas Cook. They received funding in the form of R&D tax credits. HMRC rules around what does and doesn’t qualify for the scheme can be particularly difficult to understand in the tech sector. Though it’s safe to say that any business employing software developers are likely to be doing some form of R&D. At MPA we are experts in the scheme and have already helped support innovation within Glasgow.

If you’re an innovative business in Glasgow or anywhere else in the UK get in touch with us today and find out how we can help.