14 Feb 2019
Buried away in the Centre for Cities Outlook 2019 report for the 63 largest cities and towns across the UK is an encouraging signal of Glasgow’s progress - the city’s population growth in 2017 took it into the top 10 fastest-growing urban areas.
For any city to attract new residents it has to be offering fresh job opportunities, and the launch by the University of Strathclyde of Glasgow City Innovation District, broadly surrounding its city centre campus, together with Glasgow City Council, Scottish Enterprise, Glasgow Chamber of Commerce and Entrepreneurial Scotland, is a perfect example of how that is now happening in Glasgow.
Innovation districts are a worldwide phenomenon, reflecting the re-emergence of city centres as hubs for research institutions like Strathclyde to attract investment from major corporates like Weir Group or SMEs like M Squared Lasers into the heart of the city centre.
Success depends on the close proximity of research centres, growing companies, local meeting spaces and a rich culture of networking and creative city life. It also means new discoveries and a steady flow of existing business investment and start-up companies finding the commercial means to exploit them.
The district is no stranger to creative thinking; this is where James Watt had his scientific instrument-making business and where he imagined the separate condenser that revolutionised the steam engine. It’s where Joseph Black worked on the chemistry that led to his discovery of carbon dioxide and where Adam Smith established the early principles of economics.
Nor is this a blank canvas. The district already has the Technology Innovation Centre, the Inovo building, the City Council’s Tontine business accelerator and most recently the brand new Garment Factory workspace which Channel 4 has chosen for one of its new national creative hubs.
From here will come new developments in renewable energy or in engineering applications as varied as space satellite design and manufacturing, new medical devices or the sensing technologies at the heart of the Internet of Things. This is a tangible sign of Glasgow’s engineering talent taking its rightful place as a foundation for the city’s economic future.
The formal launch opens the next phase in shaping the projects that are needed to build on the momentum that Strathclyde has built up over the past 10 years. It is an ambitious initiative which is delivered just when business investment has been getting hammered by wider politics.