Science and technology has always offered cities the potential to create new jobs, retain graduate talent and deliver area improvement when harnessed within a regeneration strategy. It’s just that the pace has changed. The advance of technology into our lives means that many of us are now talking about a third or fourth industrial revolution. Artificial Intelligence (A.I.), gene-editing, advanced materials, personalised medicine, self-driving vehicles mean the next decade is going to be shaped by game-changing innovations.
What’s also changing is the increasingly sophisticated relationship between the public sector, academic institutions and private sector developers with increasing recognition of the mutual benefit of working in partnership towards a common goal. This year’s MIPIM will demonstrate that city-based institutions around the world are now at the heart of impressive schemes to create spaces that allow innovation to thrive. At the same time, we are into an era where universities are prioritising cutting edge research and forming links that can help commercialise IP from spin outs and start-ups.
A number of city delegations are focusing on the importance of the knowledge economy to UK Plc, with major presentations based around innovation on the London, Belfast, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool and the Cheshire and Warrington stands. Innovation districts and knowledge quarters are central to these discussions.
It might be argued that highlighting what science and technology can do for this country - at what may well be remembered as the Brexit MIPIM - is a reaction to the changing relationship with the EU. In uncertain times, the UK can be secure in the knowledge that it has world-class universities producing science and technology leaders of tomorrow. This will help to further fire up start-up businesses, capable of prospering in the ever-more technological economy.
Brexit aside, many UK cities have been working towards this goal for years, creating the right conditions for high value IP-based businesses to start and scale. Liverpool’s emerging Knowledge Quarter, alongside its recent launch of development company Sciontec and Birmingham’s exciting plans for an Innovation District are exemplars of the trend. Many have looked to the example of Manchester, where the development of the Oxford Road Corridor over the last decade has transformed the area into a thriving hub of tech jobs, health innovation and culture.
The recent launch of Bruntwood SciTech, a 50-50 joint venture with Legal & General, is bringing an innovative partnership model to regional cities, creating the UK’s largest property portfolio focused on driving the growth of the science and technology sector. Birmingham is the immediate focus but the net will go much wider. Any regional city with a high quality research-intensive university has the potential to be a focal point – and it’s worth remembering that 19 of the 24 Russell Group universities are outside of London.
Tech clusters are far from a new phenomenon but the model being taken forward by Bruntwood SciTech is different and goes much further. Creating a supportive ecosystem where talent, funding, world class facilities, mentoring and support networks are readily on hand is the absolute imperative. But that’s not to underplay the partnerships sitting behind the model. No one party can do as much on their own as groups of like-minded collaborators, leveraging each other’s knowledge, resources and networks within a strategic framework that improves an area. It’s about making the sum of the parts add up to more; a good thought for us all in the post-Brexit era.
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