New London Architecture

Innovation Districts: Designing Inclusive Places

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This NLA report explores how the landscape of Innovation Districts is rapidly changing, no longer solely connected to anchor education and research institutions alone, innovation hubs are emerging in urban contexts, with proximity to businesses, diversity, culture and innovation. The report presents an exclusive summary of key recommendations that different stakeholders should consider when creating an inclusive innovation district, as well as a showcase of over 50 projects that are supporting and having a transformational impact on the education, healthcare, technology and innovation sectors in the UK.


By Peter Murray OBE, Co-founder, New London Architecture
Universities were once ivory towers, unaffected by the hurly-burly of commercial life. Today they are at the forefront of economic growth, the heroes of the fight against COVID, and at the centre of the burgeoning knowledge economy. 
Since 1970, when Trinity College opened Cambridge Science Park, the first of its kind in the country, universities across the land have realised the potential of their R&D to create new businesses and drive innovation.
Today such innovation districts are integrated into the urban context, boosted by the benefits of agglomeration. Universities are frequently at the centre of these districts which also include research bodies, teaching hospitals and cultural institutions as well as knowledge-based and tech businesses. The most mature of these districts in London is the Knowledge Quarter at King’s Cross which includes centuries-old institutions such as the British Library and University College London as well as relatively recent arrivals like the Francis Crick Institute and Google. The Knowledge Quarter aims to be inclusive and looks to work with the local community to increase participation and expand engagement with local schools, colleges and young people to increase awareness of learning and career opportunities.
More recently established, SHIFT at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park boasts of being the world’s most inclusive innovation district. A living testbed for creating better urban futures, it will drive inclusive innovation in climate adaptation and resilience, health and well-being and advanced mobility solutions, working closely with local community organisations and local authority partners.
Trinity College is now consulting on Cambridge Science Park North extension of the existing Park and makes it clear that the College “will promote social inclusion by facilitating the creation of skilled well-paid jobs in local companies where people from all backgrounds will
work together”.
As businesses everywhere embrace ESG frameworks, innovation districts must focus not only on economic growth but on sustainable growth that benefits the local communities in which they sit. Two years after the launch of “Knowledge Networks”, we revisit the efforts of the knowledge, creative and tech industries in creating inclusive innovation districts. NLA is pleased to support that ambition with the publication of this report as we continue our work on the New London Agenda to champion London’s role as a global innovation  powerhouse.


04     Foreword
05     Executive Summary
08     Introduction
16     A New Model for Inclusive Innovation Districts
40     Viewpoints
54     Project Showcase
91     Acknowledgements
92     Endnotes and Further Reading
93     Company Profiles

Publication details

Published October 2022
100 pages

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