Innovation districts facilitate the creation and commercialization of new ideas and support metropolitan economies by growing jobs in ways that leverage their distinct economic attributes. These districts build on and revalue the intrinsic qualities of cities: proximity, density, authenticity, and vibrant places. Given the proximity of many districts to low-income neighbourhoods and the large number of sub-baccalaureate jobs many provide, their intentional development can be a tool to help connect disadvantaged populations to employment and educational opportunities.
“The Brookings Institution in America recently came out with this statement: “A new … urban model is now emerging, giving rise to what we and others are calling “innovation districts.” These districts are geographic areas where leading-edge anchor institutions and companies cluster and connect with start-ups, business incubators and accelerators.
So, what does that mean to us here in Liverpool and why do we need one? Being truthful we don’t “need one”. We already have one. Since the 19th century our hospitals and universities have been clustering uphill in Liverpool. All roads east of Lime Street, Copperas Hill, Brownlow Hill, Mount Pleasant lead to our innovation district. It is known as the Knowledge Quarter.
What makes ours even better than those created from scratch across the globe is that our Knowledge Quarter is also one of our city regions (if not the North’s) greatest cultural destinations, the Cathedrals resplendent at either end of Hope Street and The Everyman Theatre and Liverpool Philharmonic sit proudly along it. Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, the Unity Theatre and the Victoria Gallery & Museum to name but a few. In Liverpool you can find the best of academia, research, medical care and culture all together. Rubbing shoulders. In one place.
So that gives us a head start – we’ve been doing this for year and we keep growing. Other cities are cottoning on to the importance of clustering their innovation assets. Manchester’s Oxford Road Corridor, London’s Knowledge Quarter at Kings Cross St Pancras Bloomsbury and Leeds new innovation district are just three examples of many.
That means we can’t rest on our laurels, so to speak. We can’t be complacent. We need to be daring, collaborate decisively, challenge the norm and get to the front. Why? To attract research money from government, win bids and inward investment, help more businesses start up, grow them faster, commercialise our research and create better higher paid jobs. Being one of the world’s first Innovation districts isn’t our only USP in the fight to make our city a better place and compete globally. We have other strengths too. According to a recent Government Science Audit we lead the world in fighting and curing infectious diseases, in materials chemistry and with our friends out at Daresbury in high performance and cognitive computing. The investment we are already attracting is transformational – over £1 billion of new development already underway in KQ Liverpool. It’s a great time to invest in Liverpool.