Prof Greg Clark CBE Connected Places Catapult Chair

Connected Places Catapult’s new chair wants Covid to ‘propel cities forward’

Prof Greg Clark, an authority on urban innovation, takes over the UK government-funded agency determined to drive adoption of new methods of travel and models for the way places are designed and run.

Clark takes over from former Arup chairman Terry Hill on a renewable three-year tenure. He said: “Covid-19 has been a tragedy for our society and a major shock for our economy, but it can also propel us forwards by encouraging the adoption of new modes and patterns of travel, as well as more efficient ways to use buildings and deliver urban services and public spaces.”

Connected Places Catapult is the UK’s centre of excellence for innovation in mobility and the built environment. It was formed by the merger of the Future Cities Catapult and the Transport Systems Catapult in April 2019 to grow UK businesses and accelerate smarter living and travelling in and between the places of tomorrow. It operates at the intersection between public and private sectors and between local government and transport authorities to help shape infrastructure investments, driving innovation and generating new commercial opportunities for UK Plc at home and abroad.

CEO of Connected Places Catapult, Nicola Yates, said: “On behalf of the staff, the senior team, and myself, we wish to thank Terry Hill for his dedicated leadership and service to CPC. With our refreshed strategy and working agreement with Innovate UK in place, we are ready to start a new chapter in the life of our organisation. We want to welcome Greg and the other new board members who will join shortly as we redouble our efforts to support UK businesses and pioneering places address the opportunities for innovation the current moment brings.”

Clark works with HSBC as a global executive leading their work on cities and mobility and with TFL as a non-exec board member. Both organisations welcomed the appointment.

His predecessor, Terry Hill was appointed a non-executive director of Transport Systems Catapult in 2013. He became chairman of Transport Systems Catapult in March 2016. When the merger between Future Cities Catapult and Transport Systems Catapult took place on 1 April 2019, he was then appointed chairman of the resulting Connected Places Catapult.

Heidi Alexander, deputy mayor of London and deputy chair of TfL, added: “The UK needs to be a leader in 21st Century Transport systems just as we were in the 19th Century. Using new technologies to increase passenger satisfaction, reduce carbon emissions, improve air quality, and make shared transport safe for the riding public, requires us to adopt new business models and embrace collaboration.”

Connected Places Catapult has identified two key priorities for its work: to ensure that wider use of new technologies accelerating the path to zero carbon buildings and transportation in the UK, and the drive to level up the economic performance across all parts of the country.

Covid-19 has accelerated both the opportunity and the imperative to deliver those strategic goals. For example, it has instigated an immediate shift towards remote working which could transform the geography of labour and housing markets, potentially reducing congestion in the big cities and creating new opportunities for different parts of the country to attract or retain workers. Technology will play key roles in supporting and incentivising these new behaviours. Coupled with wider decarbonisation in the production of energy, food, construction materials, and consumer products through circularisation processes, these have the potential to support a better distribution of prosperity at the same time as reducing carbon emissions.

As Professor Clark says: “If we get this right, we can fashion a better spread of economic activity around our country, and we can reduce our carbon emissions at the same time.”

The experience of COVID-19 and social distancing has also stimulated changes in the way people and goods travel, with implications for the planning and management of transport networks, new mobility services, and supply chains. Enabling safe, socially distant mobility is an immediate need. Longer-term, the trend towards shorter supply chains and reshoring of vital manufacturing roles, will demand an expansion of the connections between cities and regions, allowing new patterns of trade and productivity. Delivering such changes while reducing our collective environmental impact will involve progressively greater use of next generation technologies such as satellites, robots and new aviation models, as well as widespread adoption of system improvements like integrated payments, smarter traveller data, mobility-as-a-service networks, and dynamic road user charging.

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