The UK government has flown 15 British startups to Australia as part of its Future Cities Mission to learn from the country's strategy to build smart cities.
The event kicked off in Sydney on Monday, with UK-based smart city innovators looking for new business opportunities, partnerships and potential investment down under to help boost innovation on their home soil and to exchange smart city knowledge.
The British innovators in attendance included the creator of Heathrow Airport's self-driving pods, Westfield Technology Group, smart parking system JustPark and smart key-to-smartphone startup, Doordeck.
Innovate UK's innovation lead, James Taplin, said the body spends £500 million (A$889 million) a year to grow British businesses, doing so in two ways:
“One through grants and loans and the other by connecting businesses, and that's essentially what this delegation is all about,” he said.
“With this entrepreneur mission, we wanted to help UK and Australian advanced urban services businesses find new collaborators and new opportunities, linking them all with new city opportunities and investment to mutually benefit everyone involved.
“We believe the greatest innovation comes from the mingling of diverse ideas in an environment that is conducive to their growth. With this mission to Australia, we aim to achieve just that.”
While the goal of the event was to bring back lessons, business partnerships, investment and export opportunities to help grow businesses and ultimately bolster UK productivity, the mission began with the group of UK businesses identifying common problems in the cities of each of the respective countries.
The second was the pressure on natural resources; for example, the social, economic, environmental and political problems associated with inefficient transportation in cities.
The third was the density of cities. This refers to the misuse of transport in reducing quality of life, for example through pollution caused by congestion.
"This kick-off event has validated the idea that whilst UK and Australian cities may be half a world apart, their challenges are similar," Taplin said.
"Not the exact same, but with the same core difficulties and opportunities that mean our UK entrepreneurs and their Australian counterparts intuitively understand one another and how they can each contribute to solving future city challenges. It has sparked some immediate close collaborations, and set a strong foundation for the rest of the program."
While the event started in Sydney, it also moving onto Melbourne, where UK startups and entrepreneurs will meet with Melbourne's RMIT tech and research university, the city's town hall and The Australian Trade and Investment Commission, with potential investments and ideas to be exchanged in the form of effective future city innovations.