A bold new Innovation Strategy embracing a digital future and reflecting our changing society to support the local economy, improve the lives of residents and the delivery of Council services, will be presented for approval by the Executive at a meeting on 19 March.

Placing Guildford at the leading edge of innovation, the strategy provides a vision for transformation, promoting high quality flexible infrastructure as a robust foundation to ensure a safe, secure and sustainable future for the borough, its residents, businesses and visitors.

The strategy will be updated and reviewed annually. It follows the Council’s corporate plan, addressing three key priorities in 2019/20:

• Facilitating smart places infrastructure across the borough
• Guildford as the Innovators’ location of choice
• Future Guildford – value for money and efficiency in Council services

Leader of the Council and Lead Councillor for Planning and Regeneration, Cllr Paul Spooner, says: ‘Navigating through these challenging times will be easier with this clear vision for innovation. We must continue to move forward and develop and enhance our services by investing in new technologies to encourage and support behavioural change.’

Lead Councillor for Innovation and Transformation, Cllr Gordon Jackson explains: ‘The speed of change is such that nobody can accurately predict what the future holds over the next 15-20 years – we can only be certain of massive and disruptive transformation. While technology remains a catalyst for innovation, our strategy recognises that creative, original solutions are just as important to support local economic competitiveness and quality of life for residents.’

He adds: ‘Our economy has grown from one with a relatively high public sector and manufacturing element to one with a much higher proportion of high growth sectors such as gaming, cyber security, life sciences and telecoms. The total number of jobs in the borough stands at just over 70,000 with a total of 7,440 businesses.’

He continues: ‘Our Council will inspire and lead by example, gaining a reputation as an early adopter – embracing new modern ways of working, new materials and new thinking where cost-efficient, beneficial and feasible to do so. The adoption of innovation and digital technologies will facilitate a ‘smart’, sustainable and vibrant town that will generate prosperity, now and for future generations.’

Councillor Spooner concludes: ‘I’m proud of our current achievements with joint innovative projects such as intelligent transport networks for driverless cars, air quality studies, electric buses and the Sustainable Movement Corridor. I’m very pleased we’ve agreed to prioritise an innovative approach through this strategy. It will enable us to respond to changes and lead on future-proofing services while continuing to put our customers first.’

Collaborative working is a key component in successful innovation and the Council will continue to progress its work with partners across all sectors. The strategy recognises the importance of a range of organisations and businesses, particularly the University of Surrey where researchers are undertaking ground-breaking research. The Council currently recognises and celebrates innovation in the borough with two successful annual events: the Innovation Awards for businesses and the free Innovate Guildford Science and Arts Festival for families at Glive, which is taking place on Saturday 23 March 2019.

President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Surrey, Max Lu supports innovation and champions working together, he says: ‘Innovation for sustainability is vital to shaping a better future around the globe. Collaboration will be the key to success.’

He explains: ‘One of Surrey’s major strengths is working with businesses and partners of all descriptions, and I’m delighted we already work closely with the Council on leading edge projects from sustainability and clean air to driverless cars and supporting infrastructure. This kind of collaboration maximises resources and expertise and produces great results for everyone.’

He adds: ‘We also fully support the Council’s annual Innovation Awards to celebrate emerging technologies and inventions across the borough. We were proud to be awarded the 2018 Emerging Technologies Award for our research into versatile and efficient technology for the production of hydrogen in support of sustainable energy.’