Launch of Innovating for Sustainable Futures: A Playbook for UK and Indian Cities

Earlier this summer, Connected Places Catapult hosted a mayoral delegation from India to celebrate the launch of Innovating for Sustainable Futures: A Playbook for UK and Indian Cities.

This Playbook is the result of the UK Government commissioning the Catapult to conduct research and provide an overview of how two Indian megacities (Kolkata and Hyderabad) can learn from UK policy interventions in Manchester and London – and vice-versa – on topics such as clean and integrated transport, urban innovation, environmental initiatives, regeneration, and new infrastructure delivery.

It provides an overview of several case studies in these large UK and Indian urban centres and offers a framework for understanding and knowledge exchange between the UK and Indian approaches in planning, implementing and measuring the impact of projects and programmes to support their sustainable development. With a focus on ensuring local company involvement, the analysis also focused on how the two countries’ large cities can leverage and unlock investment with target ecosystems to catalyse innovation and economic activity.

The Playbook is ultimately a guide for local authorities and private sector actors in how to move forward with collaborative projects between the UK and Indian counterparts and the launch event in June was the first step towards achieving this goal. The Catapult hosted delegates from Hyderabad and Kolkata’s Municipal commissions and state governments in the UK to foster partnerships for sustainable urban development and bilateral collaboration.

Delegates present at Connected Places Catapult's London office

The Playbook’s findings are drawn from detailed analysis of policy and project documentation, and in-depth consultations with select stakeholders in the target cities (Manchester, London, Hyderabad and Kolkata). The delegates from India visited the sites highlighted in the report and were able to engage with the developments in practice. Accompanied by Connected Places Catapult staff, partners and UK government representatives, the delegates from Kolkata and Hyderabad visited Kings Cross Redevelopment and learned about the transformation that took place in the past decade in the area. The Kings Cross Visitors Centre showed the delegates an architectural model and provided and overview of the history of the redevelopment. This was followed by a tour of how facilities, including heating and water systems, are being made more energy efficient to tackle climate change.

Delegates tour the Kings Cross visitor centre

The delegates also undertook site visits to the Transport for London (TfL) HQ office where they received an informative presentation from Katherine Howatson, Principal City Planner, on the design and implementation of the Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) policy, as well as on the Road User Charging scheme also implemented by TfL to address air pollution and traffic congestion. Delegates were especially interested in the technology that has been implemented to track vehicles travelling between zones, and how the technologies and data generated were managed. In Kolkata, for example, police are already using similar technologies to enforce traffic violations.

Delegates at TfL
Delegates at The Olympic Park

Just around the corner from TfL’s HQ, the delegates were given a tour of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park by Ben Coulter, Head of Sustainability for the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC), the publicly-funded body which manages the planning, prior development and current redevelopment of the park. Ben provided an informative tour, and offered candid insights into the sustainability success stories and lessons learnt by LLDC in building the park to net zero specifications. He touched on lessons related to embodied carbon, energy usage and water treatment.

In the following leg of the visit, the delegates gained insights from Manchester’s leadership when it comes to catalysing transformation of city and wider-regional economy and creating high-value jobs and accelerating economic growth. The delegates met with Steven Cochrane, Partnership Director at Oxford Road Corridor in Manchester, who shared how stable and mature leadership have been key to building the long-term vision and partnerships in the area. He also highlighted the Manchester digital strategy as testbed for initiatives focused on infrastructure and innovation as well as arts and culture – fundamental to harness creativity across all sectors. Pat Bartoli, Director of City Centre, Growth and Infrastructure at Manchester City Council also joined the meeting.

The delegation then had a tour of part of the Oxford Road Development and the University of Manchester’s world-renowned National Graphene Institute led by Prof. Aravind Vijayaraghavan. The academic tours continued with UoM’s state of the art Engineering Campus, the new Engineering Building A, where the delegates were given a tour by Steve Jordan, Assistant Director of Estates and Facilities and Head of Capital Projects, and then a visit to Manchester Metropolitan University’s Fuel Cell Innovation Centre, where they saw hydrogen labs and understood future uses of hydrogen in the city space. Amer Gaffar, Director of Centre led the tour and through his genuine passion, provided an exciting and insightful meeting and tour.

Delegation tour Oxford Road Partnership in Manchester
Delegates meet Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham

The delegation concluded their tour with a meeting with the Mayor of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Andy Burnham. Their conversation focused on exchanging best practices as well as challenges to policy implementation for green space provision, liveability and more inclusive place making, devolution, diverse funding sources for public projects, housing investment loans, and brownfield development among other topics.

The Greater Manchester Combined Authority team will be organising a mayoral visit to India in the coming year, which will provide an excellent opportunity to follow up from the Playbook and the delegation’s UK visit and create exciting trade and investment outcomes to work on for both countries and their cities.

If you are interested in finding out more about the Catapult’s work in India, please get in touch with Roxana Slavcheva at