Slightly surprised by what I heard.

Today I was at an event hosted by University of Portsmouth at the Emirates Spinnaker Tower (quite possibly my favourite UK structure).  The event was to kick start a discussion on the future of urban Portsmouth.   Prof. Steffen Lehmann had brought some serious players to the panel that was to discuss Portsmouth as a sustainable city by 2030.   Asking the question… What is the vision to get there?


This is KnowNow’s home city in many ways.  David & I were born here, went to school locally and our business is based in the city and one of us is a season ticket holder!   We are a Portsmouth company.  Yet we also have a global outlook with customers in SE Asia, London as well as down the road.   Our home city has tended to lag behind when it comes to being seen as a ‘smart place’.   Now this may have changed.

What is so different now then?

At the event today I finally heard the words:  “I will lead as I have a vision”.   This was by Donna Jones leader of the council so in some respects, I should not be surprised a council leader would be leading.   However, what struck me was the tone, a recognition that a ‘vision’ is required, which is inclusive to as many residents as possible.  This vision I expect will prove tricky to sell to all and may see some residents impacted more than others.  Yet it is a start.  From my perspective especially as I measure a smart city according to five key ingredients, finally Portsmouth has moved along a notch on the very first smart city pre-requisite… Leadership.  This is good news.

What about the Vision then?

I will admit all 5 panelists made great points that I would struggle to disagree with.   However…. what is missing is a joined-up cohesive multi-year plan.  A plan that builds on previous success and where appropriate the foundations are laid for other later projects to take advantage of.

Panel wth Graham speaking

Panel with Graham speaking – courtesy of Prof. S. Lehmann

What I liked about some of the vision ideas was their inclusiveness and ambition.  This is good. Technology and smart cities offer a huge new opportunity to do things differently.. so we must embrace change in a smart place.    However, my overall criticism was the one-dimensional nature of the vision.   Where was the statement that I will improve health, mobility, and economic activity in the city?    This was lacking in the narrative still.  Therefore, I still see Portsmouth thinking in silos and not outcomes.  This is not evidence of a smart approach.

What Could Be Better Then?

My final point is that the city needs to broaden the base of those who own the vision.   Yes.. it may start with one person’s idea & passion but more of us need to buy into it… even start to deliver there bit.      This is because the vision is owned by one person (Donna) and not the rest of the city.   NB: although others on the panel said they had a vision, Donna’s was the only one that had deliverables & outcomes & leadership so hence goes to the top of the pile.   In my opinion, the vision needs to evolve and be owned by multiple stakeholders so it will not fail the election test.. (i.e. when a new leader is elected all old ideas are typically thrown out).    As Wayne Hemmingway suggested… a key next step is to “Be BOLD”.  I would add one more… be consistent!

Overall thought.  Well done to the University of Portsmouth for organising and hosting us all.   Thank you panelists and Cheryl Buggy for chairing.   Lots of great points & good ideas.   From my perspective the first time I have felt a desire by the city to enter the 21st Century.  Awesome.

KnowNow looks forward to working with all the stakeholders to get the city’s vision turned into something real.

Attendees at Future Urban Portsmouth

Attendees at Urban Future of Portsmouth @SpinnakerTower

Thanks for reading,  Chris