Over the last decade, the ‘smart city’ has become a dominant paradigm of urban policy, espousing (digital) technological innovation to meet various urbanisation challenges. Responding to the need for definitional and practice guidance, the British Standards Institution (BSI) was among the first national agencies to issue a smart city standard in 2014, and has since published six in total. Similar developments have taken place across other countries, and at the International Standardization Organization. Hence, in a short time span, consensus standards have emerged as a novel type of policy tool, expected to guide and accelerate smart city innovation on the ground. However, little is known about how these standards actually intervene in local planning and development processes and, therefore, what their wider significance is.
This project will deliver a systematic evaluation of the implementation of the BSI smart city standards across a range of UK cities. Thus, it will contribute original knowledge since no detailed analysis of local practice use of smart city standards has been undertaken to date. Particularly, the study will address, using mixed methods (survey research, in-depth case study analysis etc.), to which extent the BSI smart city standards currently experience an implementation gap, a known phenomenon in the policy analysis literature. The research will thus probe into the possible misalignment of the standards’ function as envisaged by BSI and municipal practice realities where standards may not easily fit into established planning and development processes.
The collaboration with the BSI is an essential component of this PhD. The involvement will bring access to key stakeholders, and the research will be used as input into a collaborative stakeholder engagement to consider possible improvements to standard design and/or practice guidelines. The collaboration thus also provides an important route to dissemination and impact. The mixed supervisory team (Prof. Simon Joss and Prof. Annette Hastings at the University of Glasgow, and Dr. John Devaney at the BSI) will ensure effective coordination, and support integrated training throughout.