Knowledge Quarter Liverpool has a simple but important mission – to establish Liverpool as a world-leading innovation district, writes chief executive Colin Sinclair.
In order to achieve this vision, we – the City, the universities, the hospitals – agreed from the outset that we should never be prepared to accept the norm, to compromise, to accept second best. Instead we agreed that we needed to innovate, to press ahead, to collaborate decisively. We are pushing the boundaries of what is possible, taking risks, disrupting the market. We call it the power of partnership and, to coin a new phrase, we say it’s “the power of disruptive collaboration”. We are creating something that is altogether much greater than the sum of its parts.
Our newest initiative, KQ Gateway, will do exactly that – innovate through partnership – but before we talk about this latest development project let’s start at the beginning.
The first thing we did, last summer, was to take stock and make a list. Not just a list of things that we thought we were ‘pretty good at’ in this part of Liverpool but rather the things that we are, or can be, truly world-leading in.
That means we can always play to our strengths. These include fighting infection and disease, materials chemistry, sports and life sciences, sensors and technology, cognitive computing and big data, for instance.
We also realised we needed to encourage and support more start-ups and spin-outs, enabling the universities and hospitals to commercialise their research. Having the spaces, places and resources to do this, we decided, would be absolutely critical to the translation of academic research to business and industry. We needed to bring together and increase our existing resource in business support.
Here in KQ Liverpool we have some amazing new science and innovation assets – Sensor City in the KQ Gateway being a great example – but we knew we needed to make sure that we invested even more to provide the right type of environment for people to work, meet and interact with like-minded high growth businesses. Our science and tech building shouldn’t be good. They should be exceptional.
The City have not only designated The Knowledge Quarter as a Mayoral Development Zone, it has created two major development sites within it; Paddington Village, which we launched at MIPIM UK last year and Knowledge Quarter Gateway. Both of which can, working with the KQ partners, help us to rapidly advance science and tech in Liverpool.
Paddington Central is said by Mayor Joe Anderson to be five years ahead of schedule in establishing itself as a leading UK cluster for health and education, with the Royal College of Physicians’ new Northern Headquarters, RCP North, Liverpool International College and The Rutherford Cancer Centre already committed to the site. Add the advanced plans for a hotel and conference facility and more science buildings and we’re well on the way to being fully occupied.
At the other end of the Knowledge Quarter, between Mount Pleasant, the old Lewis’s store, Copperas Hill and Lime Street Station, is the area we have called KQ Gateway. Through disruptive collaboration and the support of the Mayor of Liverpool it will be transformed into a vibrant part of the city. With new shops, offices, galleries, bars, restaurants, gyms and university space it is on a scale equivalent to London’s Kings Cross and our plans for KQ Gateway are no less ambitious.
A key component of KQ Gateway will be the new commercial space for tech and digital businesses, alongside futuristic educational space. Only two hours from London by train, it is a great business location at the heart of Liverpool.
Property and business experts tell us that tech businesses like to cluster and tech and digital start-ups and SMEs often co-locate in the same ecosystem as the global players, like Google Microsoft and EBay. For these businesses connectivity, in terms of both fibre and transport, is key.
Working with the KQ partnership, The City are therefore creating a Spatial Regeneration Framework for the Gateway, to enable the speedy delivery of this ambitious development, improving the arrival experience for visitors and commuters into the city.
The regeneration of KQ Gateway, which is already underway, with the Ion scheme on Lime Street and Liverpool John Moores University’s demolition of the former sorting office on Copperas Hill, will be a catalyst for much needed investment in tech and education and will create a new green, accessible, environment between the wider Knowledge Quarter and the rest of the City Centre. Architects are already engaged in the design of education and ancillary space for Copperas Hill, which upon completion of the demolition could be bought forward by LJMU and its partners in an expediential manner.
Mayor Anderson agrees: “KQ Gateway not only presents an opportunity for significant future investment and regeneration but will ultimately create more highly skilled jobs in Liverpool and strengthen the city’s position as a world-leading innovation district. By attracting investment and creating jobs, I believe that we can improve people’s lives.
“Ordinary cities lead to ordinary lives but Liverpool is no ordinary city – we are exceptional and exceptional cities foster exceptional lives”.