Hubs of Innovation Report: The role of Districts, Corridors and Quarters as hubs of the Covid-adjusted innovation economy

The innovation economy has been one of the defining features of the last economic cycle. How places become places of discovery and job creation has rapidly become a worldwide preoccupation for cities, local governments, regions and nations.

Around the world there are now more than 500 places – be they districts, neighbourhoods, corridors, or clusters of buildings – that have been recognised or designated as hubs of innovation within their region. More than 80% of these are in cities and metropolitan areas -these places accommodate a growing portion of an innovation economy that has been re-urbanising in recent decades. What nearly all of them share is an objective to optimise how they are physically configured and orchestrated in order to achieve economic and social outcomes for their community, their city or their region.

Until recently the vast majority of recognised hubs were in North America and Europe. Today more than a third are in Asia-Pacific, Africa and Latin America, and this share is rising all the time. Everywhere, they are driving a mindset shift among incumbent businesses, public and private landowners, institutions, capital and governments, about how value will be created and captured in future.

Hubs of Innovation now have to consider how well they are ‘Covid-adjusted’ – resilient to the uptick in remote working, ready to repurpose space to match new demands and business models, and responsive to new policy frameworks to ‘level up’ and make growth inclusive, locally and nationally. The effective distribution of innovation capacity is an urgent agenda that ultimately relies on defined places and concentrations to emerge, yet success is rarely guaranteed. Worldwide, more hubs of innovation fail than succeed, as do efforts to redraw the innovation map. It is important that future choices are grounded in evidence and appropriate international practice.

This report captures the recent experience of a wide variety of places around the world in order to understand what it takes to host the innovation economy across different formats and scales. It explores what pre-existing demand drives place-based innovation, given the very varied spatial and industry patterns of today’s innovation economy. And it examines the requirements of infrastructure, leadership and investment that fit the geography of an aspiring place of innovation.

In one sense the report’s focus is on the ‘ingredients’ necessary for each type of place. It is a companion piece to a Connected Places Catapult handbook which supports places to understand the ‘recipe’ – the set of interventions and processes that serve success and maturity over time.

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