In mid-March 2019, we had the opportunity to hear about leading innovation quarters and programmers from the US, including Cortex - a large innovation district in St Louis, Missouri – and Cambridge Innovation Centre (CIC), an organisation that provides flexible co-working spaces and coordinates events to bring innovators, investors and researchers together. Diarmuid O’Brien, Trinity's Chief Innovation Officer, facilitated two sessions with Dennis Lower, President & CEO of Cortex Innovation Community; Tim Rowe, Founder and CEO of CIC and Carrie Allen, Executive Director for CIC Captains of Innovation. The first was a panel session at the American Chamber of Commerce’s Business Conference on March 7th and the second was in Trinity, with attendees from across the universities, industry and government.
Over two days in February, a diverse group of 30 people – from the local community, government departments, enterprise agencies, Dublin City council, university partners, industry, venture and Trinity personnel – travelled to London to visit 3 different innovation districts and learn about their development, operations, impacts and ambitions.
For many, it was a first exposure to what we would like to achieve in Dublin, for Ireland. While every place had its own unique set-up and each will differ to what Dublin can provide, there were many case studies and infrastructural elements that we can consider in the development of the Grand Canal Innovation District.
Our first stop was to Here East, the former Press and Broadcast Centres for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Following a welcome by Trinity’s Provost and President, Dr Patrick Prendergast, the group was introduced to Gavin Poole, CEO of Here East, who provided an overview of the site. With a focus on creative and digital technologies, Here East provides more than 7,500 jobs on site and in the local community. Andrew Roughan, MD of Plexal, the residential innovation centre, outlined many of the collaborations that have been established between member companies and between companies and academics. We had a chance to visit the campuses of both University College London and Loughborough University on the site, as well as Studio Wayne McGregor, the world class dance company who offer free studio for artists in exchange for delivering engagement programmes within schools and the local community. Our final stop at Here East was to the Trampery on the Grantry, to see the low cost studios for creative local businesses.
From Here East, we travelled to King’s Cross where David Partridge, CEO of Argent, gave a presentation about one of the largest redevelopments in London with a 67-acre former industrial wasteland being transformed into a new part of the city, with homes, shops, offices, galleries, bars, restaurants, schools and education institutes. We took a walk around, taking in the new office blocks, open squares, as well as the Skip Garden, a community garden which has moved location as construction took place. We walked to the British Library, where Daniel Stevens, Advocacy and Communications Manager with the Knowledge Quarter, facilitated an informative session with a range of KQ members, from the Institute of Physics to Sommerstown Community Association.
We continued west from King’s Cross on the second day of our study visit to White City, Imperial College’s new research and innovation campus. There we visited the Molecular Sciences Research Hub and the Invention Rooms, a shared space for the college and local community.
We hope that this collective shared experience can really help to set an ambitious strategy for the Grand Canal Innovation District and determine the roadmap for how we bring it to life, in a way that will benefit all stakeholders.
Below is a selection of photos from the visit to London.