29 Mar 2016
Recently I joined a public-private Glasgow team attending the MIPIM trade exhibition and conference in France. MIPIM is an acronym from the original French which I won’t bother you with.
It continues to be the biggest gathering of property investors, developers and professionals in Europe, and just about every major European city is represented including - often large - contingents from Manchester, Birmingham, London and other UK cities.
Centres as varied as Berlin, Copenhagen, Stockholm and Istanbul – making a vigorous effort to overcome the difficulties coming from Syria - also have a strong presence.
I appreciate it’s not politically easy for Scottish cities to attend given the prevalence of negative media attention to so-called “junkets”, but MIPIM remains one of the best ways to present the case for attracting private property investment in housing, offices and hotels.
It is also the quickest way to get a fuller understanding of how competing cities are developing their economic infrastructure to attract investors. I suspect if MIPIM was in Essen or Dusseldorf rather than the sunny south of France the criticisms would be less regular.
I spoke with international urban adviser Greg Clark who moderated a series of events during the week and asked him what we should be looking out for.
Innovation matters more than ever. Innovation in the development of urban infrastructure using smart sensor technologies and big data management is becoming much more established in, for example, reducing traffic congestion, modernizing utilities and increasing waste recycling. So too is the role of innovation districts where anchor institutions – usually universities or research centres – act as catalysts for the emergence of inner city districts teeming with early stage tech and creative companies. City governments need to be leading these changes.
Detroit, San Francisco, and Boston - and soon Rotterdam too – all boast of carefully curated quarters with a mix of major organisations, technology start-up hubs, coffee shops and public meeting spaces – all designed to draw in young entrepreneurial talent and grow a fresh new business base.
These have to be communities where entrepreneurs want to be and more conventional science parks could be losing their appeal.
Recent developments in technologies like 3D printing and laser cutting mean we could see small manufacturing business playing a much bigger role in inner city tech districts.