Digital Task Force for Planning: A PropTech startup story


Digital Task Force for Planning is an innovation-led social enterprise devoted to digital planning with the ambition of promoting digital integration and advancement in spatial planning to tackle the grand challenges in the 21st Century.  

Our mission is to unlock the full potential of spatial planning in the digital era – not merely using digital tools to digitise current planning activities, but to systemically transform spatial planning methodology to embrace the latest digital technology and scientific innovations. Therefore, the Task Force focuses on the ‘Development’ aspect of R&D – to act as a convener, facilitator, and enabler of digitalisation in mainstream planning practice and education, to support the establishment of an integrated ecosystem for spatial planning innovation for the public benefit.

The Digital Task Force for Planning model

The Task Force was first established in February 2021 as an independent expert panel co-chaired by Professor Michael Batty and myself. The panel members were selected from a broad range of leading experts in the fields of planning and digital technology. Over the course of a year, we conducted self-funded, comprehensive work that culminated in the publication of A Digital Future for Planning – Spatial Planning Reimagined  (Batty & Yang, 2022). This publication provides a blueprint for digitally empowered spatial planning aimed at addressing grand challenges. The report has had a global impact, being accessed by readers from 109 different countries. Our work has been featured as a case study in the UK Government GeoSpatial Commission’s policy paper, Finding common ground: Integrating data, science and innovation for better use of land, published in May 2023. The Task Force has also been highlighted in the UCL Bartlett Review recently. 

Building upon the success of our research, we officially incorporated the Task Force as a not-for-profit organisation in October 2022. Subsequently, we were delighted to be selected as the first social enterprise supported by Geovation accelerator programmes in April. As a member of the Proptech Spring 2023 cohort, we have been actively participating in weekly workshops and catch-ups. It has been a fascinating experience and has helped us establish a strong connection with Ordnance Survey, HM Land Registry, and the wider Proptech and Geospatial startup networks. We have thoroughly enjoyed our time here and greatly appreciate the warm and friendly support from the Geovation Hub staff and our cohort.

In parallel, we have been cultivating strategic partnerships with leading research institutions and universities. We signed an MOU with UKCRIC (UK Collaboratorium for Research on Infrastructure and Cities) in April and an MOU with C-DICE (The Centre for Postdoctoral Development in Infrastructure, Cities and Energy) in July. We are delighted to announce that our first Post-Doctoral researcher commenced their work in September 2023.

The Task Force is still in its infancy. As an entity promoting digital innovation in spatial planning, its main tasks include consolidating existing research and tools can be applied in spatial planning, identifying research gaps, and developing practical solutions. The Task Force also aims to function as an incubator of digital planning innovation and help promote capacity building through training, knowledge sharing and various activities. I often describe the Task Force as a ‘Digital National Trust’ – it promotes valuable knowledge sharing as assets for public good. Our research outcomes will be made open source worldwide. 

It is our vision to reinvigorate the planning profession – creating a reimagined planning profession that can coordinate the best knowledge and advance the most appropriate digital tools and innovation from related disciplines so that we can achieve a shared vision and to create a better future for everyone. 

We invite you to be a part of our journey as we pioneer a way forward! 

Please get in touch,

Dr Wei Yang, Co-Founder and CEO of Digital Task Force for Planning