In Focus: The Innovation Ecosystem

The trend over the past 50 years, in the innovation sector, has been set by places like Silicon Valley – suburban corridors of spatially isolated corporate campuses, accessible only by car, with little emphasis on the quality of life or on integrating work, housing and recreation.

A new contemporary urban model is now emerging, giving rise to what the Brookings Institution is calling ‘innovation districts or villages’ which by the Institution’s definition are;

“Geographic areas where leading edge anchor institutions and companies cluster and connect with start-ups, business incubators and accelerators. They are also physically compact, transit accessible, and technically wired and offer mixed use housing, office and retail. Innovation districts are the manifestation of mega-trends altering the location preferences of people and firms and, in the process, re-conceiving the very link between economy shaping, place making and social networking.”

Innovation requires a symbiotic environment to thrive, it takes place where people come together, not in isolated spaces. Innovation Districts are where ideas are shared in coffee shops and hubs, rather than traditional offices, and businesses share ideas in communal spaces.

All innovation districts or villages contain economic, physical, and networking assets.

When these three assets combine with a supportive, risk-taking culture they create an innovation ecosystem — a synergistic relationship between people, firms, and place (the physical geography of the area) that facilitates idea generation.

These multifacetted truly mixed-use areas, when combined with innovative residential typologies, should be considered more often to help regenerate and revitalise urban and suburban areas.

Lisa Addiscott AoU & Steve Robins AoU
Barton Willmore

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