Blog | 12/10/17

What is an Innovation District? And why does it matter?

By Colin Sinclair, CEO, KQ Liverpool

“The Brookings Institution in America, some cool dudes in Washington DC, 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, by our definition, 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. The Knowledge Quarter as it’s now known.

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 sat 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. Rejoicing.

So that gives us a head start but other cities are cottoning on to the importance of clustering your innovation assets. Manchester’s Oxford Road Corridor, London’s Knowledge Quarter at Kings Cross St Pancras Bloomsbury and Leeds new innovation district just three examples of many.

That means we can’t rest. We can’t be complacent. Rest on our laurels. 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.

But 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, including the innovation spaces that the Brookings boys and girls refer to.

We have Sensor City, the Materials Innovation Factory, Liverpool Science Park, the Accelerator and Liverpool Bio Innovation Hub. Plus 30 acres of new health, education and science buildings going up at Paddington Village include RCP North, the Rutherford Cancer Centre and Liverpool International College.

But let’s not stop there: we need more green spaces, better cycling and pedestrian routes, better car parks and something revolutionary in transport. A really clever, green, affordable way of getting to the new hospitals, the Universities, Hope Street, and Paddington Village from Lime Street and Central Station. Connecting KQ Liverpool to the rest of the city, the commercial district and our beautiful waterfront.

Let’s make that our mission. Let’s lead the world in transport innovation like we have done and are doing in knowledge.

That’s how important all this is.

Ordinary cities lead to ordinary lives. Great cities like Liverpool innovate to make peoples lives better.