Matthew Cliff

Developers key to driving knowledge economy

Knowledge EconomyCollaboration is the key to maximising the assets of the knowledge economy, according to a strategist at Liverpool University speaking at Place's Knowledge Economy Forum.

Matthew Cliff, public engagement manager at the university, told 100 delegates at the event in Liverpool Science Park, that the European working age population is shrinking and valuable knowledge-based industries must expand to enable EU states to protect their GDPs.

Cliff said this requirement falls on many shoulders, from schools and colleges increasing skills to universities commercialising research, inward investment agencies selling locations and developers creating new space in knowledge quarters around university districts.

Also speaking at the event, sponsored by Wates, was Alex Solk, associate partner at architectural practice Sheppard Robson. Solk said that contrary to some people's perceptions knowledge businesses do not always require special fit-outs or highly specified buildings. More important than anything is the proximity to other like-minded or complementary businesses and organisations.

The keynote speeches were followed by themed breakout roundtable discussions chaired by experts on funding, planning, policy and design.

Peter Malone, business development manager for Wates Construction, said: "What was apparent from the forum and subsequent discussions was the increasing importance of the developer and its role within Public Private Partnerships. I think we will start to see a shift and future development programmes with universities in the North West will be far more developer led. This will be particularly necessary on non-research facility based developments due to funding limitations. We will also see more universities looking at selling part of its estate assets in order to help fund future development plans. Overall the forum was very insightful and provided an excellent platform for Wates to raise awareness of its work within the education and knowledge sectors to key industry figures.

"I was genuinely impressed with the calibre of attendees; the quality representation from the region's major players demonstrates the strong interest in this market."

Knowledge Economy Forum roundtablesSean Keyes, director at structural engineers Sutcliffe, chaired the design roundtable. He said labs pose challenges to developers as they require specialist installations for hygiene requirements and can come out 30% more expensive to build than office space.

On the planning table, chaired by Shelagh McNerney, director of DPP Shape, topics covered included the importance of creating an 'urban ambience' and the need for both the incubation of talent and to be close to a client base.

The event concluded with a brief panel discussion featuring Steve Parry, managing director of Neptune Developments, John Flamson, strategy director at Liverpool University and Alex Solk of Sheppard Robson.

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