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Smart city firm says £11 million funding for innovative Dundee projects is just the beginning

Urban Foresight director  Rachel Beeton
Urban Foresight director Rachel Beeton

The world’s first dedicated smart city consultancy has revealed big plans for its Dundee operation – including more jobs, fresh projects and securing further investment in the area.

Urban Foresight helps local government and business to use technology, data and new ways of working to transform local services and infrastructure.

The Newcastle-based venture was established in 2011 by its chief executive David Beeton after a career in global innovation consultancy and economic development.

Urban Foresight expanded into Dundee in 2017 following six years of working in partnership with Dundee City Council to develop strategies and projects to promote electric vehicles and sustainable transport locally.

The firm currently has a total UK workforce of 21.

The Dundee team is now 10-strong – compared to just one person three years ago. The company moved to bigger premises at Flour Mill in the city’s Commercial Street just over a year ago.

Mr Beeton’s wife, Rachel, who grew up in Dundee, is the firm’s director of finance and operations.

She said: “Over the years, we’ve written bids which have secured more than £11  million of investment into Dundee and helped the city to achieve global recognition for its pioneering work in electric vehicles.

“This includes collecting an award at a ceremony in Japan, where Dundee was named Europe’s most visionary electric vehicle city.

David and Rachel Beeton of Urban Foresight

“In 2017, Urban Foresight was awarded a contract to deliver a pioneering ‘living lab’ project to transform Dundee into a test-bed for smart mobility solutions.

“This has seen us working with the council to deliver innovation projects to improve parking in the city, deliver new investments in fleet car clubs and shared electric bikes.

“The vision for the project is to make Dundee a place where companies can invest in solving global transport challenges while delivering local economic, environmental and social benefits.”

The Mobility Innovation Living Lab (MILL) will run until 2022 and is funded by Dundee City Council, the Scottish Cities Alliance and the European Regional Development Fund.

By the end of the programme, the total benefits to the city are estimated to have reached more than £16.3m.

Rachel said: “Dundee City Council has been visionary in embracing innovation, and it has been a privilege to work with officers and politicians who are committed to making good things happen in the city.

The firm’s offices in The Flour Mill in Dundee.

“Dundee is also a city that is perfect for the kind of support that we can offer. Like many other cities it has a range of social, economic and environmental challenges where innovation can make a real difference.

“As a small, compact city it’s also a perfect test-bed to pilot solutions that can be easily scaled and exported to other cities around the world.”

With her Dundee connection, Rachel has particularly enjoyed Urban Foresight being part of the city’s recent transformation.

She added: “We’re fortunate to be involved in projects on the city’s Waterfront and are proud to be contributing to the Dundee’s growing reputation as a global hub of innovation and the UK’s first UNESCO City.”

Rachel said there are ambitious plans to grow Urban Foresight’s team in Dundee.

“We hope to create more jobs, deliver many more projects and secure further investment in the city and wider region.

“We have a pipeline of projects that will directly benefit the city. This includes leading a £3m project which is funded by the UK Government and will install innovative pop-up pavement charge points for electric vehicles on streets across Dundee and Plymouth.

Minister for Trade, Investment and Innovation Ivan McKee with Rachel Beeton

“Our Dundee team is also leading our pioneering work in smart and sustainable mobility. This includes a unique city data platform and mobility-as-a-service solutions.

“We’re also working with multinational companies to shape Europe-wide standards and business models for connected and autonomous vehicles.

“A key milestone later this year is that we’re hoping to welcome representatives of cities and national governments around the world to Dundee as part of a project that we run for the International Energy Agency’s hybrid and electric vehicle technology collaboration programme.

“We have significant plans for growth. We have already secured additional contracts to take our unique innovation partnership model to other local authorities and to export the learning that we’ve gained from pilots in Dundee to other cities.”

Rachel said her firm has been proud to help shape the development of Michelin Scotland Innovation Parc in Dundee.

Urban Foresight’s other current projects north of the border include a sustainable energy and climate action plan for Angus Council, developing hydrogen infrastructure and an EV charging hub in Perth, and creating a Covid-19 charter and strategy to help tourism businesses in St Andrews to safely welcome visitors back to the town.

Rachel said her firm has been fortunate to work with ambitious organisations around the world on projects that improve lives, protect the environment and boost local economies.