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Newcastle City Futures

What is it?

Newcastle City Futures (NCF) was established in 2014 by Newcastle University as a collaborative platform to bring together Research and Development potential with long term policy trends and business needs in the city. It led a very successful public facing NCF exhibition and events at the Guildhall in 2014 with 24 partners addressing Newcastle past, present and future in visual and engaging forms.

In 2015, the City Council established the City Futures Development Group (CFDG) comprising local authorities, universities, the LEP and private sector to think long term about the city’s prospects and research needs. The CFDG reports to the Science City Partnership Board but aims to identify growth opportunities, multi-partner and multi-sector projects, public and business engagement on city futures, and new research projects.

NCF was part funded in 2014-15 by the Government Office for Science Future of Cities Foresight Project, led by Sir Mark Walport and Sir Alan Wilson; its long term report, Newcastle City Futures 2065, was published in July 2015 identifying evidence and priority themes, and set out the case for Newcastle to be seen as a test-bed city for innovation.

In 2016, NCF became a £1.2m Research Councils UK/ Innovate UK Urban Living Partnership (ULP) pilot project (one of only five nationally) that aims to address the future needs of Newcastle and Gateshead through the collaborative design of projects that can be delivered across the city region. There will be a phase 2 ULP call worth £10m per city to fund projects from 2018.

NCF Vision

As a post-industrial urban area with more than 381,100 citizens, Newcastle and Gateshead form the heart of a contiguous urban conurbation of over 1 million people. We are a region facing numerous challenges, and perform below average on a number of socio-economic factors such as economic activity, educational attainment and health. Our pilot phase work will look to identify specific issues around these and other challenges.

The Newcastle City Futures, building on the existing work undertaken by the research team at Newcastle University since 2014, will diagnose the complex and interdependent challenges within the urban region, working collaboratively to co-design and implement initiatives and solutions in order to contribute to the life of the people and development of the area.

The NCF ULP reports to the City Futures Development Group. CFDG has adopted a vision for the future of the city:

Our vision is to ensure the economic growth of the Newcastle, Gateshead and the rest of the North East where all people in the city equally enjoy positive wellbeing and good health irrespective of age. Newcastle is a post-industrial city at the heart of region of 2m people. It has a long and illustrious history of scientific and technological innovation that we are using to address 21st century challenges: how to support the city’s population harnessing digital platforms, broad civic engagement, and business development; leading to improvements in quality of life and new models of governance.

Both NCF and CFDG have priority themes of:

  • Ageing
  • Sustainability (including Infrastructure)
  • Social Renewal (including Young People)

These have been selected because they match the priority policy areas, of the City Council, the themes of Newcastle 2020 Group, and the North East LEP’s smart specialisations; they also relate closely to the societal challenge overarching themes of both Newcastle University and Northumbria University.

NCF is committed to identifying and facilitating project development not only within each of these three areas, but between the three themes, as this is where there is the greatest innovation potential for the city.

Each theme is underpinned by a commitment to enhance digital development, visualization and imagery for engagement, and collaborative working.

Who runs it?

Led by Newcastle University but partnered by Northumbria University, the NCF ULP now comprises 22 partners covering public, private and third sectors in the city. It features project partners from government, industry, academia and civil society. Our core partners and supporters comprise government (Newcastle City Council, Gateshead Council, North East LEP), industry (IBM, Arjuna, Intu, Newcastle Airport, Nexus, AECOM, Arup, BuroHapold, Zero Carbon Futures, Northumbrian Water, Northern Gas Networks, Northern Power Grid, Federation of Small Businesses, TechCity), and public and voluntary sectors (NHS, Newcastle Schools Forum, Newcastle Council for Voluntary Service, Quality of Life Partnership, and the Royal Society of Arts).

Our consortium is bound together by the need to develop a shared long term vision for Newcastle and Gateshead, which involves its establishment as an Age Friendly Sustainable urban area, working in partnership to find solutions to the opportunities and problems of today and tomorrow. Newcastle University focuses its research expertise around the societal challenges of “Ageing”, “Sustainability” and “Social Renewal”, producing not just world class research but practical and realistic solutions to problems society faces today. It is these societal challenges that form the basis for our work.

What are its aims?

1). To understand key interconnected and complex urban challenges facing the cities that occur beyond individual disciplinary and policy sectoral perspectives;

2). To facilitate the bringing together of leading cross-disciplinary research expertise, city leaders, businesses, civic organisations and community groups, public, third sector and other urban innovators to engage, understand, debate and analyse;

3). To create collaborative methods and a forum for partners to work together, combining their strengths by creating a co- produced research and innovation ecosystem;

4). To co-produce practical responses and exploit emerging market opportunities and capacity for social innovation that have the potential to embed new practices in and across the urban region long term;

5). To frame identified challenges within the city and the region around the themes of ageing, sustainability and social renewal, addressing these through the lens of digital creativity and innovation, allowing us to utilize the region’s global strengths whilst focusing on the prominent of issues;

6). To align the strategic objectives of governmental and public service delivery organisations with higher education institutions to allow for more effective implementation of collaborative projects; and

7). To learn and reflect on the collaborative processes deployed as a series of communities of practice that are transparent and socially inclusive, allowing citizens and businesses to be part of the co-production methods.

How does it work?

As a consortium, our contribution to the life and development of Newcastle and Gateshead will be facilitated both through our project partners within the consortium, but also through the citizens themselves and will build on our existing funded collaborative investment platforms (e.g. National Smart Data Institute, National Ageing and Science Institute, Digital Civics, Digital Economies Research Centre, UKCRIC, iBUILD, My Place). Business and citizen engagement will be a fundamental aspect of this pilot phase with regards to complete our diagnostic work and to work with businesses and citizens once challenges and opportunities are identified in order to maximise impact of delivery work.

Project partners will not only help support citizen engagement, but will provide a means by which to allow for real-life interventions in order to contribute to the life and development of the city. Larger corporate partners will also assist small and medium enterprises in the city through collaborative project work. This will include the use of demonstrator projects which partners will take forward, formed around and co-designed to reflect the issues identified during the work in order to have more of a direct impact on the city and thereby create a ‘test-bed city’.

Projects will be identified by partner organisations, working together, facilitated by the NCF. Projects must address multi-sectors, multi-partner involvement, and use digital, visualization and/or engagement methods. Projects that are supported will be presented to the CFDG for comment and endorsement. It is envisaged that a pipeline of projects will emerge, but will progress in parallel with each other at different speeds.

What sort of issues will it deal with?

We have already identified a number of pressing themes:

Ageing. 15.6% of the population in the city is aged 65 or over, and this is expected to rise by a third by 2030. Trends such as this create challenges across the urban area in the fields of housing, transport, design, and the need to find new ways to innovate, communicate, and disseminate projects through digital means. The city also experiences higher numbers of people suffering from dementia when compared to the national average, and this is increasing with numbers aged over 65 with an expected rise from 3,200 to 4,400 by 2030. Trends such as these require a change in how we deliver services to focus more on prevention and early intervention.

Sustainability. The NCF will build on an already existing platform of sustainability research and practice in the face of ever increasing environmental challenges. Climate change has been identified in the city as one of the six big challenges for local government over the next 20 years, with councils being committed to reducing the city’s carbon emissions by 34% (from 1990 levels) by 2020. This commitment involves various schemes in order to try to achieve this position, including ensuring all new council homes are built to zero carbon standard from 2016, seeking to reduce domestic waste by 15% and using low carbon technology in vehicles.

Social Renewal. This covers a huge range of challenges across the city, and statistics for Newcastle and Gateshead emphasise the need for further work and solutions to such critical issues. For example, unemployment has been rife in the North East of England for decades, and is well above the national average. The unemployment rate for the North East in October 2015 was 8.6%. We also have a widening gap in social inequalities in health. For example, there is a difference of 12 years between life expectancy in men across a 10 mile radius between the wealthier parts of Newcastle (Gosforth) to the more deprived areas (Byker).

Who will benefit?

NCF will benefit a range of organisations and citizens in Newcastle and Gateshead:

Citizens and Communities – At the core of this pilot phase is the need to significantly contribute to the life, wellbeing and development of the citizens of Newcastle and Gateshead, by identifying key challenges currently faced by the area.

Local Government – The local authorities will benefit from our work. Both councils will benefit in terms of their preparatory work for the revised Core Strategy beyond 2030, and the provision of intelligence into the quarterly public-facing Policy Cabinets and the Newcastle 2020 initiative. The North East LEP will also greatly benefit, especially in relation to the development of the Economic Strategy and Sustainable Urban Development Strategy.

Business – We will work with these partners to align their own project developments and investment strategies alongside the work of NCF, to achieve more effective outputs through enhanced citizen engagement, academic research evidence and cross-sectoral collaboration.

Public Services – As well as with industry partners, there will be significant impact from the work of NCF with regards to public sector organisations such as the NHS, Newcastle Schools Network, Newcastle Council for Voluntary Service and the Quality of Life Partnership.

Is there a work programme?

Potential preliminary initiatives have already started to emerge from this collaborative approach of working with the Councils, LEP, and other private and voluntary organisations but will be accelerated through NCF and include:

  1. Creation of a common vision and language for researchers, partners and communities;
  2. Development of an agreed vision and strategy for Newcastle and its region for the long term;
  3. Creation of an intelligence and academic resource for policy makers, businesses and citizens;
  4. Formulation of a demonstrator programme protocol for delivery organisations to take forward project ideas emanating witin NCF in their own organisations;
  5. Development of a pipeline of collaborative cross sectoral demonstrator projects, with specific named partners leading and supporting, that can be championed beyond the lifetime of the project;
  6. Implementation of a dissemination strategy for the project and the partners, to inform wider networks in research, government, practice and civil society of results of the project as they occur;
  7. New modelling and simulation tools to explore and assess trade-offs between different futures and strategies;
  8. A suite of community designed and inspired apps for testing across the city;
  9. Engagement with the local authorities on informing the development of the next version of the joint Core Strategy for issues beyond 2030; with the LEP on revisions to the Economic Strategy and Sustainable Urban Development Strategy; and with the North East Combined Authority on the new North East Planning Development Framework;
  10. A publication programme comprising academic papers, blogs and conference and seminar presentations, led by the research team both in the duration of the project and beyond; and
  11. A testing and evaluation framework of real world trials and innovation in collaborative practices.

What is expected of each project?

Every project will develop at their own pace. All projects, individually, will be co-designed by partner organisations and other groups in the city. Each project will be expected to represent cross-sectoral working, and multiple partner ownership. All projects will be led by an academic champion; the champion of each project becomes, in effect, the research lead of the project, able to claim the research dimensions, publications, and impact story. Each project will be branded as “Newcastle City Futures” and the NCF team will collect the stories of the development of each project co-design as it happens, in order to build up feedback to RCUK and Innovate, but also to link in to other relevant marketing or regulatory bodies across the city. Each project idea will run in parallel with others and at different speeds so there will be a pipeline of initiatives.

How do I get involved?

Newcastle City Futures is welcoming ideas for projects throughout 2016 and 2017. We want to hear from businesses and community organisations across Newcastle and Gateshead who have innovative, futures-facing cross cutting ideas. We will work with you to shape projects to make a difference to people, how they live, and the place they call home. Preference will be given to projects around ageing, sustainability, and social renewal, using digital means and imagery and innovative engagement.


Professor Mark Tewdwr-Jones, Director

Dr Yvonne Huebner, Project Manager

Dr Paul Vallance, Researcher

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