In-Conversation with Liz St Louis

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In-Conversation with Liz St Louis

We are thrilled to introduce a new initiative at IPEC – “In-Conversation With” interviews! The initiative aims to celebrate transformational leaders in various parts of UK local government by sharing their expertise, success journeys, and advice on implementing new practices in innovation procurement.

This week we had the opportunity to interview Liz St-Louis, Director of Smart Cities and Enabling Services at Sunderland City Council, delving into topics about innovation, procurement and how it works for Sunderland.

What is your role at the Sunderland City Council? What does an average day entail?

In the context of this area of work my role is Director of Smart Cities and I manage our Smart City programme and our 20-year joint venture partnership with Boldyn Networks. In a nutshell, I drive forward city-wide investment in next generation digital infrastructure and digital and data solutions that are making a transformational difference across a city landscape.

What are some of the biggest challenges facing the Council?

Demand pressures, specifically with regards Adults and Children’s Social Care and Housing and the challenges this places on overall resources.

We know you have partnered with Boldyn Networks on procurement of innovative solutions. Can you please tell us more about your partnership? How does it help to make Sunderland more innovative? How do you apply procurement here?

We went to market to procure a 20-year strategic Smart City joint venture partner to help us develop our smart city landscape. It’s a contractual joint venture, joint risk/joint reward. We have jointly developed a network of networks and a raft of digital and data solutions that sit on those networks. We have developed a robust supply chain and can provide services to anyone in Sunderland. It is effectively a legal framework where we can procure any network infrastructure or any digital or data solutions that sit on those networks, subject to agreed value for money principles.

Our mechanisms for contracting are all set-out within our underpinning project agreement and we have connectivity services agreements governing all of our buy-back services. It makes us very agile and able to respond very quickly to challenges and opportunities. Bodyn Networks also have an extensive global footprint which means we have a much greater reach which aids innovation.

What’s the value for residents and businesses when thinking about smart cities?

Everything we do within the smart city programme is about delivering economic or social good. It’s about how digital makes Sunderland a great place to live work and play. We also strive hard to ensure we leave no one and nowhere behind on our smart city journey.

Why 5G and IoT is important to Sunderland City Council?

Advanced wireless infrastructure creates so many opportunities in every aspect of life and business. It provides a huge advantage for a city, economically and socially and we want to be at the forefront of that advantage.

What have you been able to achieve in this space to date? Can you please share a few examples?

  • Properties now able to access full fibre connectivity has doubled since the start of the programme
  • Over 40,000 unique users are now enjoying the free Sunderland wi-fi network each month
  • Over 4,500 properties across the city now have assistive technologies enabling elderly and vulnerable people to live safe and well in their own homes
  • Our recent social tariff campaign reached over 30,750 residents with many now benefiting from discounted broadband rates
  • Our 22 Digital Hubs are now live across the city providing safe and supported access to digital services with over 200 volunteers helping people to go on-line

What in your experience are the biggest challenges for local governments in procuring innovation to solve council challenges? What is your advice?

It can be the pace of public sector procurement and the difficulties experienced, particularly by SME’s in responding to tenders, being accepted on frameworks etc. It is also very much the repetitiveness of the process. That’s why the partnership with Boldyn Networks and the associated procurement framework is so important to us in delivering our smart city ambitions.

What is one advice you would have given yourself if you could nearly 15 years ago when you just joined SCC?

Think carefully about your ambitions, seek innovative ways of how to deliver those ambitions and put the thought and effort in at the beginning to create the right enabling mechanisms to then deliver at pace.

If you are interested in showcasing your journeys to innovation through procurement in our in-conversation interviews, please reach out via

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Liz St Louis
Director of Smart Cities and Enabling Services, Sunderland City Council


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