Taking into account the Knowledge Quarter’s Science and Innovation Audit, Councillor Danny Beales gives us a glimpse of what lies in store for Camden, one of London’s most innovative and progressive boroughs.
Guest Post from Camden Council
Cllr Danny Beales
Camden has been home to great political thinkers, the suffragette, LGBT and housing rights movements. The borough has a proud, rebellious spirit that throughout its history has seen communities come together to tackle problems, and to bring about real social change.
During 2017/18, thousands of local people, including residents, community organisations, businesses and other partners, came together again in this spirit, to discuss what Camden should be like in 2025. In Camden 2025 and Our Camden Plan, we set out our vision for the borough –as a place where everyone contributes to shared goals of achieving a safe, fair, creative and active community. We want to make Camden a place where everyone has a chance to succeed and where nobody gets left behind.
Crucial to this vision is that growth in Camden should be strong and inclusive – everyone should be able to access the work that is right for them.
If anywhere can achieve this vision, it surely must be Camden. Camden is at the centre of a global economy. We have experienced strong economic growth in recent years, outperforming the UK as a whole but also many other parts of London. Camden is home to 34,000 businesses and 367,800 jobs, representing 7% of all employment in London and contributing 2% to national GDP. Employment in Camden has grown by 27% since 2009, comparing well against overall jobs growth in Greater London (21%) and GB (9%). In 2017, GLA Economics estimated that 79,000 new jobs will be created in Camden by 2036.
Much of this growth is attributable to the strength of Camden’s scientific, digital and creative economy. The area around Kings Cross and Euston, represented by the Knowledge Quarter Partnership, is a focal point for one of the greatest knowledge clusters anywhere in the world.
In 2018, an alliance of Knowledge Quarter Partners, including Camden, produced a ground-breaking piece of research – the BEIS-supported Science and Innovation Audit (SIA). The KQ SIA confirmed what we in Camden already instinctively knew – that the area around King’s Cross and Euston represents world-leading expertise with regard to life sciences, creative/digital collections and machine learning/AI, as measured by research grants, publications, patents granted, drug discoveries and start-up companies, including university spin-outs.
42,000 new employee jobs in science and technology were created in Camden and Islington 2003 – 2013. In 2015, one-third of the jobs in Camden fell into this category — the highest concentration of any local authority area in the UK. The KQ ‘spills out’ 30,000 highly skilled graduates, post-graduates and post-doctoral researchers per year and its universities have been responsible for spinning out over 100 new start-ups in the last few years.
Despite this growth, Camden remains a borough where thousands remain locked out of job opportunities. Where some young people feel the drug trade offers them the only hope of a decent standard of living and where over half of children in the wards which are home to the knowledge quarter, grow up in poverty. This has to be a call to action for us all, and only by acting together can we address this challenge.
The SIA also confirmed that there are threats to the continued, growth of the knowledge economy in our borough. In particular, pressure on commercial and housing land makes it very expensive to live and work here and we know that start- ups and small businesses – so essential to an innovative and collaborative ecosystem – can be priced out. The KQ particularly needs affordable lab space for start-ups, move on space for growing businesses and space for supportive business accelerators.
We know there are significant development opportunities coming up in the area. The British Library recently announced their ambition to create space for the Knowledge Economy through their expansion site next to the Francis Crick institute. Our ambition for Euston and vision for Camley Street, just north of King’s Cross, includes space for this important sector to grow. We are clear as well, that new developments must offer opportunities to grow the KQ, but also to open up local opportunities as well.
Camden Council is now convening partners, residents and employers to take forward the key recommendation from the SIA, the development of a spatial and workspace strategy for the Knowledge Economy. Our ambition for the strategy is that it will:
- Outline shared long-term aspirations for the area
- Help to accelerate the delivery of major schemes, ‘unlock’ key sites and protect and provide affordable space for micro and small businesses including start-ups – creating an eco-system that supports the growth of the Knowledge Quarter across the different scales and types of institutions and businesses that it needs to thrive and grow
- Provide a high-level framework within which infrastructure investment and public realm priorities might be meaningfully identified and advanced
- Ensure that the growth of the Knowledge Economy delivers benefits to individuals, businesses and organisations locally and more widely for London and throughout the UK
- Ensure that the Knowledge Quarter grows in a way that provides real opportunities for local people and businesses.
Alongside this work, the Camden STEAM programme which has already launched, aims to encourage greater fusion in creative, digital and scientific education to ensure that our young people have the skills they will need to access 21st century jobs. We call on our exciting, dynamic and innovative business community to sign up to the 21st Century Talent Pledge and join the more than 30 forward thinking partners who have already done so. This is our mechanism for mobilising business resources to drive skills and careers education, tackle underrepresentation and provide all Camden young people with access to the opportunities available locally.