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Manchester Urban Institute

Spotlight on...Dave Carter!

14 July 2017

Dave talks about challenges over the next few months, Smart Cities and more.

Dave Carter, Honorary Knowledge Exchange Fellow

Q1. As an honorary research fellow in the School of Environment, Education and Development, what would you say is the main challenge facing you and your colleagues over the next six months?

Our main challenge is keeping up with demand, as we’ve seen a major growth in postgraduate student numbers, and a big increase in the scope of research work and opportunities, especially through being part of the new Manchester Urban Institute (MUI). I’ve also had a change of title to Honorary Knowledge Exchange Fellow which better reflects that I’ve (hopefully) brought in useful external professional expertise from having worked for Manchester City Council for nearly 30 years, including as Head of Economic Development and Head of Digital Development. There are also some exciting new initiatives with the new Greater Manchester Mayor’s office and I was lucky enough to be invited to the Mayor’s Digital and Tech Summit on 6 July 2017, which set out some ambitious new plans for making the Manchester city-region the ‘number one’ location for digital and tech growth in the UK, with many opportunities for the University to be involved in collaborative work supporting jobs, skills and innovation. 

Q2. What’s the most exciting thing you’ve worked on recently, and why is it exciting for Humanities?

There are two things really. I went to Kazakhstan at the end of June, visiting both the very new capital city of Astana, where EXPO2017 took place, and the beautiful old capital city of Almaty, where the British Council is supporting the country’s first ever smart city initiative, with an emphasis on civic engagement. We are keen to support this, and they are equally keen to learn from Manchester’s past and present experiences.

Secondly, visiting the University of Washington in Seattle and agreeing on a new cooperation and exchange programme with the College of the Built Environment there, which will start in 2018 with a study visit from our students in March, and a summer school programme here with their students in June/July. Both of these demonstrate new opportunities for Humanities and the University across a whole range, from attracting new students to partnership for research, innovation and knowledge exchange. 

Q3. Tell us about your role in Smart Cities.

When I was working in Manchester City Council we were the first UK city to link up with other European cities, including Amsterdam, Barcelona and Helsinki, to launch the European Network of Living Labs and the Connected Smart Cities Network, which I chaired from 2010 to 2015. This meant that Manchester and its partners, including the University, had a head start in defining the agenda for smart cities development and ensuring that it wasn’t just about technology but, most importantly, about inclusiveness, sustainability and quality of life. We all agree that you can’t have a smart city without smart people and so the agenda around jobs, skills and creative spaces to support innovation, like the Manchester Digital Lab (MadLab) in the Northern Quarter (which I chair), is always more important than any technology. This is why I’m pleased to say that Manchester and its partners have real credibility in this area and it’s a central part of the work of the Manchester Urban Institute. 

Q4. Summer’s here! What two books would you take on your next holiday, and what are your chances of reading them? 

I tend to read science fiction and science fact in equal measure so one of each. ‘Radical Technologies: The Design of Everyday Life’ by Adam Greenfield is a fantastic critique of our obsession with all things smart and a plea for more human and intelligent uses of technology. Second is the Chinese science fiction writer Cixin Liu’s new collection of short fiction, ‘The Wandering Earth’. He’s the first ever translated author to win the worldwide Nebula Award for science fiction. He’s a brilliant writer with a very different perspective on our potential future/s. I always read the books I get, although now on my Kindle (in spite of what Adam Greenfield says in his book …).

As published in Humanities eNews, 14/07/2017

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