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Smart cities: how do the UK and South Korea compare?

South Korea is betting big on smart cities, and it’s showing up in the unlikeliest of places – how does their experience compare with the UK?

(Originally posted on the Innovate UK blog. Reproduced here with kind permission from Innovate UK and David Leipziger.)

Take, for example, the Nakdong River delta on Korea’s south coast. The river winds lazily through 500-acres of machine-cleared plots that used to house hundreds of small-scale rice farms.

Rising improbably from the horizontal landscape is a futuristic white tower, a glass-encased toadstool. It will be the central point of a Busan Eco-Delta Smart City, a multi-billion-pound urban development site that aims to house 80,000 people on this spot by 2023.

Thus is the ambition of South Korea’s national strategy on smart cities (a catchall sector for the cost-reducing digitisation of urban services). Nearly £3 billion in public money are now flowing through local governments and companies.

Innovate UK recently sent a group of industry experts to South Korea as part of a Global Expert Mission to see how the UK stacks up.