Farther afield, but only 20-25 minutes by train from King’s Cross and with growing links to the KQ, is an emerging cluster in gene therapy, stem cell therapy and tissue engineering (linking to Audit themes 2 and 3). This consists of the Cell & Gene Therapy (CGT) Catapult’s £55-million Cell Manufacturing Facility on GSK’s open innovation campus at Stevenage in Hertfordshire, which opened in April 201823; the CGT Catapult’s network of industry partners – several of which are based at the Stevenage BioScience Catalyst (SBC), on the same site; the Advanced Therapies Division of the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control, which is co-located with the UK Stem Cell Bank at Potters Bar24; and the RVC, which has a campus at Hawkshead Lane, Potters Bar. Whilst this cluster is focused on human medicine, the CGT Catapult’s interests complement those of the RVC, which is developing stem cell therapies for equines and companion animals. Opportunities for collaboration between the Catapult, companies based at SBC, and the RVC are being pursued through joint bids for funding, and will be boosted by the opening of a Veterinary Vaccinology and Cell Therapy Hub on the RVC’s Hawkshead campus in summer 2020 (see reference 1).
At national level, Knowledge Quarter London Ltd. is part of a newly-formed network of nascent innovation districts chaired by the LLDC and including Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and Glasgow; whilst at international level it is working with innovative cities and city-regions in Europe, the USA and Asia to share good practice. This includes acting as host for visiting delegations, undertaking ‘ambassadorial’ visits overseas and, prompted by the Audit, contributing to technical debates on the role of urban innovation districts in creating sustainable economic growth (for example, in June 2018 the RVC and UCL gave a presentation on ‘what works in the KQ’ at the University-Industry Innovation Network conference in London). These activities are comparatively low-key at present and could with benefit be expanded as part of efforts to make the KQ ‘brand’ more widely known inside and outside the UK.
The process of carrying out the Audit has undoubtedly strengthened collaboration within the KQ, particularly between the Steering Group members, but also between innovative small firms in the KQ, that hadn’t previously been aware of one another’s existence (some of these firms met for the first time during the thematic workshops). The Audit has also helped to formalise relationships between the KQ and external actors such as the GLA and the LLDC, whilst creating new ‘soft’ connections with MedCity, Tech Nation, HS2 and Imperial White City. At the same time, some hoped-for relationships failed to get off the starting blocks, because no individual champion emerged to engage with the Audit process (this is perhaps inevitable given the large and diverse set of organisations in the KQ). This failure demonstrates that new connections can only be made if all parties are open to the possibility, and serves to highlight the importance of ‘network brokers’ in joining the dots between organisations – a role that in the KQ is undertaken by Knowledge Quarter London Ltd. and a handful of highly motivated consultants. A KQ-wide survey conducted as part of the Audit revealed that these brokers, most of whom have been active only for a short time, are starting to have a genuine catalysing effect on collaborations. Hence, Audit Hypothesis 2 is supported by observations made during the Audit. That said, the Audit found that the scale of brokerage activity is modest, in keeping with the small number of brokers active in the KQ. Brokerage activity will need to be ramped-up considerably (and be complemented by in-work enterprise skills training – see section 7) if we are to fully exploit the KQ’s potential as an ‘incubator for the UK’.