Digital Leaders UK has just announced that Sunderland has won Smart City of the Year 2020.  

Sunderland has claimed the UK top spot in the national competition that celebrates digital transformation and is organised by the global initiative ‘Digital Leaders’.  

Sunderland City Council earned the top prize at the Digital Leaders Awards, excelling above 10 other nominated cities from across the UK, including Belfast and Edinburgh.

The award for Smart City of the Year recognises places that have prioritised digital transformation for the wider benefit, providing an array of services and creating opportunities for communities and businesses alike.

The transformational work of Sunderland City Council and a host of partners resulted in Sunderland’s shortlisting to the top 10 in June this year. This was followed by a public vote placing the city in the top 3 finalists of the Digital Leaders 100 List for 2020. The concluding round of judging saw a panel of experts determine the ultimate winner, announced at the Digital Leaders 100 awards ceremony on the evening of 15th October.

Sunderland was joined by Cardiff and Stockport in the final furlong to be named the UK’s smartest city. Proudly representing the north east region, this exceptional result is testament to Sunderland’s longstanding and upcoming digital leaders, as well as the resolute commitment of Chief Executive Patrick Melia and the Sunderland City Council Smart City Programme team led by Liz St Louis, Assistant Director of Smart Cities, as well as numerous partners and collaborators for making their mark in such a short period of time.

Patrick Melia, chief executive at Sunderland City Council, said: “I am extremely proud that our smart city has been identified for its forward-thinking approach, recognising Sunderland’s determination to become the UK’s leading smart city.

“Our ambitious plans have forged many technological partnerships between the council, businesses, educators and other specialists; all of which are enabling digital growth across the city. We know that our sustainable and smart technologies will enable the city to overcome both economic and social challenges for years to come.”

Patrick added: “Our digital agenda is not only making a huge difference in our city, to see that our collaborative efforts are being recognised at a national level shows the wider impact of these achievements, positioning Sunderland as an extraordinary place to live, work and play.”

“From appearing in the DL100 shortlist earlier this year to now claiming the number one position, illustrates the fast pace at which we are driving projects across Sunderland to embed an augmented digital infrastructure, which will continue to be key to our recovery from the current Covid-19 pandemic.”

Gaining recognition on a national scale as the UK’s fastest growing smart city with this eagerly awaited appearance in the DL100’s top spot, illustrates the advanced smart agenda and digital achievements from across Sunderland over the past year.

Outcomes and successes of the Smart City’s implementation to date, include:

  • Upgrades to vital digital infrastructure connecting the city through the continuing rollout of free ultrafast public WiFi with download speeds surpassing the first 5G cities
  • Local school, Hudson Road Primary, speeds increased from 13Mb to over 650Mb, enabling virtual teaching and on-line coding clubs
  • Social housing tower block tenants in the city centre also benefiting from free ultrafast connectivity
  • Transport solution for traffic mapping to inform future traffic flow and allow real-time traffic management
  • Expansion of the National Assistive Technologies test-bed, delivering solutions into 350+ properties to enable vulnerable people to live safely at home, reducing social care intervention
  • Significant investment securing plans for ubiquitous connectivity to all Sunderland premises

In addition, the confirmation of £multi-million investment through recently announced 5G Create funding and Getting Building Fund (GBF) is welcome news to the region. These projects will provide a boost for the manufacturing sector, exploring connected automated logistics (CAL) and the use of 5G technology by UK tech innovators to explore new opportunities in North East England to facilitate next generation digital connectivity.

This year’s DL100 List highlighted numerous Sunderland-based successes as well as Smart City of the Year, with the National Underground Asset Register (NUAR) pilots gaining runner up status in the UK’s top three for Cross Sector Digital Collaboration of the Year, highlighting its pioneering work in improving the way industry and authorities manage and share data about the UK’s buried infrastructure assets.

Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, added: “Helping individuals, communities and businesses to leverage digital opportunities and prepare for the future are key drivers in our continued investment to improve connectivity.

“The benefits of this are far reaching as we advance our digital economy, providing healthcare solutions alongside embedding essential digital skills to mobilise the next generation of digital leaders.”

Pivotal to shaping Sunderland as a digitally focused and collaborative place to thrive is a central ethos that in creating a place where everyone benefits from the opportunities of the digital era, no-one or nowhere is left behind.

Motivated and inspired by the knowledge that technology and digital advancements play a huge part in the delivery of enhanced services to local residents, improving their quality of life and the opportunities available to them, this announcement shows Sunderland is a city firmly at the forefront of digital innovation.

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