Brain power

The importance of the Knowledge Quarter to innovation in London

Originally posted on The Horizons Tracker.

Most cities around the world are trying to utilize their scale advantages to support new innovation. It’s a topic James Liang describes eloquently in his latest book The Demographics of Innovation, in which he argues that cities have a clear advantage in terms of innovation, largely on account of three factors:

  • The scale factor – Economies of scale are well known in business, but Liang argues that scale is also vital for innovation. Not only do cities with high populations have more researchers etc., but crucially, they have a large domestic market for budding innovators to sell to.
  • The agglomeration factor – This can be seen with the emergence of innovation hubs, such as Silicon Valley, in recent decades. Liang argues that a large population is not enough if that population is not fairly well concentrated. Cities and hubs benefit from the concentration of talent and resources in one place.
  • The age factor – The age of the population is also important. Liang suggests that 72% of the greatest inventions in history were made by inventors in their 30s and 40s. This is because they have had time to gain an education but are not sufficiently embedded into the status quo to see no other way of working.

One of the most successful new innovation clusters of recent times is London’s Knowledge Quarter. The cluster was officially created in 2015 to bring together a wide range of world class institutions located in the King’s Cross, Bloomsbury, Angel and Euston district of central London.

The success of the cluster was highlighted by a recent audit conducted by the British government, which lauded the cluster as the ‘incubator for the UK’.

“The Knowledge Quarter is a world-class resource for London and the UK in terms of innovation and research commercialisation,” the report says. “Some of the core ‘building blocks’ for this have been in place for many years, such as the KQ’s universities and cultural institutions. However, much of its growth is more recent: for example, the transformation of the area around King’s Cross, commercial investment by firms such as Google, and the advent of new institutions, such as The Francis Crick Institute.”

Multi-disciplinary success

The report highlights the ability of the cluster to pull together leading figures in a range of disciplines, including life sciences, data science and digital collections. This breadth of expertise has allowed a number of exciting innovations to emerge that cross disciplines. For instance, Benevolent AI are pioneers in the deployment of AI to develop new medicines.

The paper highlights a number of projects under way to ensure the Knowledge Quarter remains so dynamic, including improving the brand of the Knowledge Quarter, especially internationally; building better ties both between members of the cluster and with institutions outside of it; and providing better training and support to help academics turn their ideas and knowledge into startups.

“In view of the unique role that the KQ plays in the UK’s innovation landscape, we believe that both our aspirations for‘KQ 2050’ and our shorter term projects present investment opportunities for central Government as well as for local partners, and we would welcome Government engagement on our journey,” the Knowledge Quarter say. “In particular, we will explore the potential for national funds (such as Strength in Places Fund) to co-finance project costs alongside local investment, and we will work with Government agencies (such as NHS Estates and the Home Office) to bring partners together and, if appropriate, investigate the opportunity to flex national policy.”

The work of the Knowledge Quarter, and other clusters across London, including Silicon Roundabout and White City, underpin why London was voted last year as the best city in the world for startups. Long may it continue.

Article source: The Importance Of The Knowledge Quarter To Innovation In London.

Header mage source: Adapted from Knowledge Quarter.

Adi Gaskell

I'm an old school liberal with a love of self organizing systems. I hold a masters degree in IT, specializing in artificial intelligence and enjoy exploring the edge of organizational behavior. I specialize in finding the many great things that are happening in the world, and helping organizations apply these changes to their own environments. I also blog for some of the biggest sites in the industry, including Forbes, Social Business News, Social Media Today and Work.com, whilst also covering the latest trends in the social business world on my own website. I have also delivered talks on the subject for the likes of the NUJ, the Guardian, Stevenage Bioscience and CMI, whilst also appearing on shows such as BBC Radio 5 Live and Calgary Today.

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