The opening day of this year’s MIPIM London stand was all about two main things: innovation and talent. The London stand organised by NLA and Pipers kicked off with a session on the knowledge economy and to what degree it might be a key driver of the capital’s future.
For the panel, chaired by NLA chairman Peter Murray, it was a big part, and for the City’s Catherine McGuinness, we do ‘tend to rather undersell ourselves’, given London’s ‘global capital’ status and fintech strengths. Certainly, said deputy mayor Jules Pipe, in this age of Brexit uncertainty, there was still much to be optimistic about. ‘We’re not complacent, but we’re confident that London will be very resilient’, he said.
And yet, said Croydon’s Jo Negrini, the knowledge economy is only one strand to the urban environment, and it is really about creating a platform for so much more. ‘Cities are going to be a lot more about blurred lines’, she said, centring on the importance of the ‘experience’.
But it is clear that digital connectivity will also be crucial in allowing this and other spheres to flourish. In a session in association with Cluttons, the firm’s John Gravett said this had risen considerably up the scale when it comes to occupiers’ preferences and needs. Connectivity, he said, had jumped up to third behind rent and location and above transport on company priorities. The City, moreover, is changing dramatically in this regard, with a push to 5G, said Carolyn Dwyer, and the Square Mile is soon to host ‘the smartest building in London’, 22 Bishopsgate. The Crown Estate, too, is embracing flexible, connected buildings, said its James Cooksey, with the benefits of sometimes 20% premiums coming along as a result. But, said WiredScore’s William Newton, all cities will need to be based on the needs of people, created via connectivity, albeit with challenges to come over data, and privacy. Connectivity will maintain London’s competitiveness, even if its infrastructure across the capital, said Dwyer, is currently ‘patchy’.
When it comes to retaining talent, the future of workplace is likely to be affected to a large degree by the growing interest in wellness and wellbeing, but also flexibility and agile working. ‘If you’re serious about doing this it needs to be a shift from top to bottom’, said Cooksey.
The City, again, is working hard to attract a new and younger, more diverse workforce, said Christopher Hayward, chairman of its planning and transportation committee. No longer is it the preserve of bowler-hatted gentlemen with rolled up umbrellas, he said. Today’s City is less about banks and much more about SMEs and things like its Culture Mile project, plus a transport strategy aimed at reducing traffic and improving air quality. Central to Brookfield Properties schemes in the City, said Carlin Fier was the idea of activating the public realm and making a better environment for workers every day.
Designing for wellbeing should be about simple things like creating large and welcoming stairwells, said Emma Cariaga of British Land, or elevators at a minimum to make them an ‘inconvenience’ added Callison RTKL’s Jeanne Wood. If this and mental health’s importance is not grasped, Carriaga added, there is a ‘crisis’ coming. ‘London us under extreme stress’, she said. Employees are even now often deciding on jobs based on the environment around them more than the job itself, said Avison Young’s Richard Williams, who has introduced ‘walking meetings’ in his office. ‘For me it’s a safe, creative, flexible and listening environment’ (that is at the heart of wellbeing and environments for wellness).
Finally, in a session around the London model on the London stand, deputy mayor Jules Pipe said that the GLA was providing ‘certainty’ for developers via the London Plan, while Liz Peace of OPDC pointed to her area as a whole new sector of London. ‘Now it’s west London’s turn’, she said. Ultimately though, her message that London is open for business was one echoed by Pipe. ‘There’s a huge amount to be confident about in terms of investing in London’, he said. ‘So much of the ecosystem that will make it continue to be attractive to invest in. That’s not going to change’.
By David Taylor, Editor, NLQ