Lab environment

Skilful Urban Growth: Unlocking Innovation in Science and Technology Sectors

Andrew Wilson, Operations Director, provides an insight into his thoughts on reading ISG's latest Wide Angle report, 'Rethinking the skills conundrum'.

The evolution within the science, innovation, and tech sector is vividly exemplified in the changing perspectives on location. Establishing a presence in pivotal urban hubs like London becomes imperative for securing top talent and nurturing creative collaborations. Consequently, the challenge squarely addresses the interdependence of talent and spatial availability - an important link extensively revealed in ISG's latest research paper into skills.

There is a high demand for specialist, lab-enabled real estate to accommodate the increasing number of companies emerging from the startup stage and aiming to scale up. Construction planning application data can identify the location of these new facilities, providing enhanced visibility to those seeking to benefit from clustering complementary high-tech organisations to boost impact and innovation. Better access to planning data, often siloed, serves as a potent regional and national workforce planning tool.

Acting upon insights from this data to upskill our workforce as we deliver a pipeline of world-class facilities across the UK benefits both scientific and construction sectors – showcasing our world-class talent. Cementing our reputation as an attractive investment destination further encourages developers to make key ‘next generation’ investments in the UK. This stimulates further opportunities for the future through clustering's impact and by gearing up our regional workforce to catalyse investment.

One notable trend is the clustering of tech and science facilities. Recently securing the Nan Fung Life Sciences Real Estate, ISG is currently reconfiguring and extending a 100,000sqft commercial office space, delivering high-specification laboratory, write-up space, and office accommodation. This will draw talent and collaboration opportunities to the doorstep of the Francis Crick Institute.

Planned sector growth will require a holistic approach to skills development, rooted in partnership between central and local government, educators, research institutions, training organisations, and the private sector. This is essential to realise the full potential of our cities and regions.

We already have a formidable skills base and, as home to four of the world's top 10 universities, the infrastructure to keep growing it. However, while talent is evenly distributed across the UK, opportunity is not. Seizing the unique characteristics of different regions to create vibrant environments that attract business clustering, foster innovation, and support thriving communities is a real opportunity here.

I recently joined a discussion with planning consultants Turley, where the significant potential for high-tech-led town centre regeneration was recognised. However, areas outside the greater Southeast, specifically the ‘golden triangle’ pose more significant challenges due to historical markets and pre-existing clustering of activities. ISG’s latest report ‘Rethinking the skills conundrum’ spotlights opportunities to rethink how we use planning data and tools, enabling the clustering of high tech across wider areas of town and city centres.

Infographic showing value of construction projects
Place increasingly matters in this sector – and this is intrinsically linked with talent attraction and retention, and the precursor stage of upskilling. Canary Wharf and Kings Cross may at first seem unlikely locations for scientific endeavour but make clear sense as part of a clustered technology ecosystem, with excellent transport links and proximity to the culture and amenities of a vibrant global city. Lessons can be learned by regions limiting their sights to out-of-town high-tech and science business parks, usually accessed via private vehicles. To draw talent from broad demographics, these facilities should integrate into wider community situations.

The UK’s re-entry into the Horizon programme offers UK companies and research institutions unmatched opportunities to lead global innovation and development, focusing on standing apart in a global market. Physical infrastructure matters in attracting and retaining the world's best science and technology talent. Providing the right type and quality of space for cutting-edge experimentation and research is critical.

The benefits are not only for the workforce, but ultimately the end communities they operate in. Delivering benchtop to bedside facilities, such as the UCL Institute of Neurology, accelerates treatment development for dementia, resulting in a better treatment experience for existing patients. Local clustering benefits, such as DeepMind in King's Cross, collaborating with the NHS to improve diagnosis and treatment, demonstrate the power of collaboration supporting the science and technology industries' legacy through successful regeneration.

The healthcare and technology sectors' inextricable link have a transformational impact on patient outcomes through new treatments and cures. Attracting the best talent into both fields is critical to sustaining the pace of innovation and discovery. Providing flexible and adaptable spaces to support these activities is a key element. Understanding construction investment not only provides a secure pipeline of appropriately skilled talent but also influences and informs the clustering of complementary organisations driving healthcare innovation.
Skills shortage | ISG

Construction: the great overlooked tool in our strategic workforce planning

Our latest Wide Angle, ‘Rethinking the skills conundrum’, seeks to connect the dots between people, place and productivity. 

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