New London Architecture

Innovation Districts and their ability to support the Inclusivity Agenda

Friday 11 March 2022

Jonathan Burroughs

CEO
Creative Places

Throughout the world Innovation Districts have been thrown into the economic spotlight in recent times, from Boston’s famous Kendall Square to @22 in Barcelona and our very own Knowledge Quarter centred on King’s Cross.  Now we have an SC1 initiative south of the river, focussed on health and well-being.

Typically focussed around research intensive institutions of excellence, they have come to embrace all that innovative, creative businesses want when looking to grow their companies – a 24/7 economy, easily accessed and perfect for recruiting and retaining the brightest minds in a culturally rich live/work environment.  
 
But today our Local Authorities and indeed our country needs to look far more closely at the experiences and issues of local people and the businesses that have inhabited these places for decades – for whom these districts are home, have emotional ties and for whom displacement or disenfranchisement comes with success.  How do we engage with and support such people, how do we involve them and provide opportunities that they may find helpful and exciting for the future?
 
Various research projects have been undertaken and more are getting underway to look at Innovation Districts, their key components, their success factors and their benefits.  This includes research by the National Research Commission on Inclusive Innovation.  The NLA Expert Panel wants to provide an additionality to this body of work - focussing on how various districts across Greater London might build their offer for residents and businesses of their boroughs, how they make the developments more relevant and less intimidating.  More natural as inclusive not exclusive growth hubs.
 

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2022/23 Research Project

NLA is working on the following research piece: “Innovation Districts: supporting inclusive growth” launching in October 2022, the Expert Panel has started to contribute thought leadership and thinking around the following points:

1. Urban design, uses and spatial relationships: Public realm, including space in buildings. 
The group might want to look at an Authority possibly having different districts and complexities and opportunities that may come with that, as well as the permeability and kinetic facades, with buildings as well as districts. The circularity and reconfiguring of space in the tech, science and business sectors is high on the agenda and finally how to link this to the communities served.
 
2. Planning policy and tools. It would be helpful for the group to focus on reference governance.  We might see more areas of London using learnings around innovation post covid and it would be good to consider tools for helping to build back better, supporting both home and hybrid working as well as social workspace that enhances productivity.
 
3.  Affordable workspace. The group would find it helpful to learn more about affordable workspace options. Councils like Camden have evolving strategies, along with a space allocations policy. References are made to an inclusive economy and how residents in the area gain, but what we should challenge is the experience and where the opportunities lie that can make a difference?
 
4. Education, maker space and ancillaries. Science and innovation are good examples, but it would probably be helpful to look at education, makerspace type space, etc.  so that innovation districts are much more than science and tech. The group will look at what makes a ‘successful’  innovation district to build credibility if grounded in real life examples.
 
5. Operation. How places are operated and run day to day is really important.  An innovation district is something that is inherently of scale and with a number of actors.  How do the dynamics work to ensure inclusivity?  Scaling up ability is important.  Operator spaces for clusters would be good as well as innovation operators.  A central role for lead bodies could be really helpful to explore further, along with the governance issues that come with this. Developers and investors, universities, etc may do it individually today and we have KQ, Upstream and SC1 to explore how they are going about this and what they are learning.



Jonathan Burroughs

CEO
Creative Places



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