Science and tech are key sectors for the Northern Powerhouse, and the benefits of clustering have been well documented. What are the key ingredients of a world-class innovation district when it comes to property?

Brock Carmichael has been a contributor to North West Business Insider’s ‘Talking Property’ section each month for over a year now. We are asked for our opinions every month on a range of topics. This was April’s. 

Chris Bolland, Managing Partner

“Michael and I believe there are four essential factors for creating world-class innovation districts:

Positioned for talent & skillset retention. Proximity to a thriving university or cluster where knowledge is retained after study helps but you need great infrastructure too to complete lifestyle choices. Companies and entrepreneurs will go wherever they need to for their chance for success and to be the next disruptor or game changer. The Northwest already has tremendous amounts of STEM talent in clusters and is better at retaining it but it needs constant improvements to transportation and infrastructure.

Critical mass & fusion.  World-class innovation districts create ‘collisions’ between talent that spark huge opportunities. Think of how Steve Jobs met Steve Wozniak and Bill Gates met Paul Allen. Importantly, they must also interact with customers, investors, other start-ups, academia and even lawyers and accountants to bring mentorship and connections for young companies. This means a thriving support system close by of meeting places and hospitality offerings.”


Mike Cosser, Partner

Here are the other two:

“Flexible, fast, adaptable space. As organisations grow they need to know their work space can adapt and change with them. From hot desking, to breakout areas, the latest comms and technology, support functions and moveable offices, buildings have to adapt and bend to occupant needs and provide alternatives quickly.

Layouts should be open and flexible to maximise opportunities for innovation and knowledge transfer through social contact and communication. Access to a range of spaces supporting different working styles – including private, semi-private and open-plan environments is also important.

Impact and vision. Successful innovation parks districts know how to scale and turn a small company into an international Goliath in just years and then shout about it. Buildings therefore have to be inspiring places to work with green and work spaces which make bold, creative statements about their occupants. An increasing focus on health and well-being issues in the pursuit and retention of talent will see the personalised control of the workspace environment permitting choice in lighting and thermal comfort become a critical differentiator.

It’s an incredibly exciting time for the Northern Powerhouse with so much momentum, growth, and demand. It’ll be a mistake not to carry our legacy forward with bold new plans.”