Intel has announced the launch of a new research institute to promote sustainable connected cities, in collaboration with Imperial College London and University College London.

The research unit will be tasked with creating new technologies to make cities more sustainable and improve their inhabitants’ quality of life. Using London as a test bed, researchers will employ real-time user and city infrastructure data to improve efficiency, according to Intel.

Speaking at a launch event at Downing Street today, Justin Rattner, Intel chief technology officer and director of Intel Labs, said that the cities of the world continue to pose the greatest challenges for the future.

“Already half of the world's population lives in cities, and those cities consume more than 75% of the energy of the earth and contribute about 80% to the total greenhouse gases,” he said. “You may see over the next decade, this role reversal as cities emerge as the central focus for driving sustainability.”

The Intel Collaborative Research Institute for Sustainable Connected Cities will initially employ around 12 researchers, who will focus on applying computing technologies to enhance cities from a social, economic and environmental point of view. The institute will engage with local communities to understand how they want to live and involve them in designing technological innovations.

Intel said these innovations will include making cities more “aware and adaptive” by harnessing data gathered through sensor technologies embedded in city infrastructure and data shared by communities. The institute will use this data to develop models for more sustainable behaviour, including community energy management or water conservation.

The institute will also explore how fixed and mobile sensors across the city, and intelligent connected vehicles, can be used in the collection of weather, emission and traffic flow data, for use by city planners in the development of more sustainable cities in the future.

“We're all walking around with our own little sensor platforms in our smartphones; by the way, the vehicles you drive every day and the trucks and the lorries out and about are all rolling sensor platforms. They're already well equipped, we just need to connect them. Once we have them connected you'll be amazed at the remarkable advances that will take place,” said Rattner.

Intel said that the institute will also collaborate with the emerging Tech City cluster in East London, using the social media expertise of start-ups there to identify and analyse emerging trends within cities.

The institute will become part of the newly formed Intel Labs Europe UK R&D network, which currently consists of nine research and development centres around the country. The UK network will form part of a worldwide network of university research communities, in which Intel plans to invest more than $40 million over the next five years.

Speaking at the launch event in Downing Street, chancellor George Osborne welcomed the investment from Intel, claiming that the government is determined to make the UK the best place in the world to do business.

“It is investments like this that will help us put the UK on the path we need to take to create new jobs, new growth and new prosperity in every corner of our country,” he said. “It is encouraging to see major tech partners like Intel investing in this country as a result of the policies that the government has put in place.”

Earlier this month, the government also gave its backing to a new 'smart cities' consortium, led by software developer Living PlanIT. The consortium signed a memorandum of understanding, promising to develop applications that will enable communities to live and work in “an intelligent, efficient and sustainable urban environment”.