The Infrastructure and Tech Forum recently held a site tour of Here East, to explore how large-scale regeneration sites are delivering and nurturing innovation through the their development phases.
On our arrival we were greeted by Andrew Roughan, Chief Operating Director of Here East. Around a model of the Olympic Stadium site, Andrew explained that Here East located in what was the former broadcast centre for the 2012 Olympics. The site is now an impressive innovative and entrepreneurial campus.
Here East, a joint-venture between Delancey and Inifity SDC has a 200 years lease from London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) and is the organisation managing this new London campus. The vision for Here East is to bring together academic institutions, technology firms, an innovation incubator and a business community to create a new London district.
After 18 months of operation, Here East has already reached 80% of occupancy. Tenants include University College London (UCL), the 3D printing company Hobs Studio, an innovation and co-working space called Plexal, Loughborough University, Ford, BT Sports and will soon also host the Victoria & Albert research facility.
The tours started with the visit of the Gantry, a flexible art and innovation space for artists. As key part of their planning consent to redevelop the site, Here East had to provide affordable workspace. They used an existing structure (the gantry, which was supposed to be demolished) to provide 21 artist studios. The studios are designed by Hawkins/Brown using Wikihouse design (open source technology) wood panels to deliver easy to assemble sites for local artists. Spread over 3 floors, the 21 studios are all unique with some modelled on local inventions such as the perforated toilet role.
Our tour then visited UCL’s new campus, which brings together the Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment and Faculty of Engineering Science to create innovative thinking within the built environment. Professor Alan Penn, Dean of the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL led the tour and showcased some of the exciting projects that engineers and architects are developing hand in hand, including the robotics testing centre. In addition, UCL are launching a new The Real Estate Institute that will seek to value intangible elements of the built environment such as sustainability, heritage, placemaking but nonetheless have a real value for people.
We then ventured t Hobs Studio, a 3D printing and 3D visualisations organisation. Kadine James, 3D Technology Lead, shared why the organisation chose to locate at Here East and showcased how their organisation are developing innovative 3D and 4 D solutions for the built environment. Using 3D glasses, participants were able to take part in the Thames Tideway’s VR health and safety trainings programme within the tunnels.
Our final stop of the tour took us through Plexal, an innovation centre and incubator that will host up to 800 innovators. Sam Hunt, Innovation Programme Manager, shared insight into Plexal’s business model, which is to provide space and support to London’s emerging technology and innovation companies. Plexal itself is East London’s largest co-working area and supports the incubation of start-ups and later stage innovation organisations, but also recently won the London Office of Rapid Cyber Advancement a 3-year, £40 million initiative to collaborate with the UK and international research, academic and cyber innovation community.
The forum concluded with a panel discussion with Andrew Roughan, Prof. Alan Penn, Kadine James, Sam Hunt as well as Cllr, Guy Nicholson, Cabinet Member for Planning, Business and Investment, Hackney Council, to debate the current and future development phases for Here East and get under the skin of how Here East, Hackney and this area of East London may evolve. Interestingly, current planning regulation limit some aspects of creating a varied tenancy but reassuringly both the London Legacy and each of the organisations shared a common interest in unlocking wider societal and urban challenges going forward.
There was definitely a lot of food for thoughts for the journey back to Stratford, on the Here East speedy shuttle!
We would like to thank Here East, Plexal, Hobs Studio, UCL and Hackney Council for supporting this forum and look forward to sharing how we plan to take forward the Innovation and Regeneration theme in our October Conference.
The panel was moderated by Hugh Roberts, Co-chair, Infrastructure & Urban Regeneration Council, ULI UK and kindly hosted by Plexal.
Author: Pauline Niesseron, Greater London Authority, member of the ULI Young Leader and Infrastructure Council committees.