28 July 2016

Leeds Innovation District

Yesterday the Executive Board of Leeds City Council, which is the principal decision making organ of the local authority, approved a report by Tom Bridges to
"Support the formation of a partnership between Leeds City Council, University of Leeds, Leeds Beckett University and Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trusts; to further develop the concept of an innovation district for Leeds."
You can watch the speeches by Councillor Blake, leader of the Council, and Councillor Carter, leader of the Conservatives, on the local authority's webcast player.

The report describes the innovation district as "a catalyst for productive, sustainable and inclusive economic development." It hopes that it will enable creation and growth of firms, inward investment by enabling businesses, entrepreneurs, universities clinicians and government leaders collaborate across sectors, organizations and disciplines, expand job and educational opportunities for people and inspire young people around the range of potential career paths in the modern economy.

The report refers to the concept of innovation districts developed by the Brookings Institute (see Bruce Katz and Julie Wagner The Rise of Innovation Districts, A New Geography of Innovation in America). According to those authors:
"Innovation districts constitute the ultimate mash up of entrepreneurs and educational institutions, start-ups and schools, mixed-use development and medical innovations, bike-sharing and bankable investments—all connected by transit, powered by clean energy, wired for digital technology, and fueled by caffeine."
Mr Bridges's report considers two examples of innovation districts, one in Boston and the other around King's Cross in London.  It is worth pointing out that Katz and Wagner referred to many more and actually identified three possible models for innovation districts.

Mr Bridges lists the city's assets as:
  • two universities; 
  • Leeds General Infirmary (one of largest teaching hospitals in Europe); 
  • leading art and music colleges; 
  • the UK’s largest financial and business services sector outside London; 
  • a fast growing digital sector; 
  • the UK’s only global internet node outside London; 
  • a successful retail core; 
  • major cultural attractions (the only city centre outside London that is home to major opera, theatre and dance companies); and 
  • the busiest railway station in the north of England.
It refers to other investments in  the city such as the Victoria Gate shopping centre and the arrival of the high speed rail and observes that an innovation centre
"provides an opportunity for further expansion on land freed up by consolidating hospital and local government functions on a smaller geographic footprint. More importantly it can help ensure the city makes the most of its existing leading-edge facilities and functions in this part of the city, as well as major new developments such as the University Innovation and Enterprise Centre."
It then proposals a timetable for further work together with a recommendation for the necessary funding.

I shall follow this proposal closely as it develops. If anyone wants to discuss this article or innovation in Yorkshire generally he or she should call me on 01484 599090 during office hours or contact me through this form.