Knowledge Quarters are depicted as the engine houses for city-based economic development, with the knowledge economy delivering new jobs and prosperity. They represent a clustering of talent driven innovation and creativity.
Birmingham’s fledgling Knowledge Quarter is based around Eastside and the Aston Triangle. It currently encompasses two universities, one FE college, a museum; two (soon-to-be three) Academies; the Birmingham School of Acting, the Conservatoire (under construction) and our expanding Innovation Campus. The geography is defined, joined-up activity is coming, but it needs stimulation and the engagement of the wider city. The Life Sciences cluster in Edgbaston and sector specific Economic Zones all need to be linked-up to drive outcomes that could create a knowledge city derived economic powerhouse.
In 11 years’ time our city’s links to the Euston-area of London will be such that we can get there in 40 minutes – faster indeed than we can get from one side of Birmingham to the other (at times!). So the fact that that area of the Capital has been designated as London’s Knowledge Quarter needs to be seriously contemplated.
London’s Knowledge Quarter is a partnership of 35 academic, cultural, research, scientific and media organisations based in King’s Cross and Bloomsbury. With institutions such as the Art Fund, the British Medical Association, the Guardian newspaper, University College London, the University of the Arts London, Google London, Poet in the City, the Wellcome Trust, the Royal College of Physicians, the Francis Crick and Turing Institutes; this is a true powerhouse. Together, these partners employ over 30,000 people, turn over more than £2bn, work with 3,500 volunteers, and serve more than eight million visitors annually.
Is this an opportunity or threat? If it is to be the former, then we have 11 years to ensure there is sufficient depth of activity in Birmingham to drive two-way traffic of talent and opportunity. Birmingham’s Knowledge Quarter needs to fledge and connect with the city, perhaps as a Smart City Demonstrator project, but certainly through partnership.