London’s ‘Knowledge Quarter’ is one of the world’s best locations for science and innovation
The one-mile radius around King’s Cross railway station in north London has been revealed to contain one of the highest densities of knowledge-based businesses and science organisations in the world.
This was discovered through a government-sponsored Science and Innovation Audit (SIA) led by the Royal Veterinary College (RVC).
Known as the ‘Knowledge Quarter’ (KQ), this area is an incubator for the UK, with its scientific institutions and spin-off businesses delivering novel technologies that are subsequently commercialised elsewhere and have a big impact on the global stage. The SIA found that the KQ’s contribution to the wider UK economy is equivalent to the City of London and competes with leading innovation districts such as Kendall Square in Boston, USA.
The report confirms that the KQ is an international player particularly in the life sciences, data science (especially within machine learning or artificial intelligence) and digital collections. As a result, this has led to exciting new cross-disciplinary research and business start-ups such as Tecrea Ltd, a spin-out from the RVC that specialises in cell and tissue delivery technology using nanoparticles.
Thanks to its entrepreneurialism, the KQ is attracting significant investment and talent. In the past year alone, Aga Khan University and the Institute of Physics and Universal Music have opened new offices within a 10-minute walk of each other. Over the next three years, McKinsey & Co., Facebook and Google will each complete construction of their new corporate headquarters in the KQ. Also, in the pipeline is a major extension to the British Library, due to open 2025, that will provide a new headquarters for the Alan Turing Institute, the UK’s National Institute for Data Science.
However, the future of the KQ is threatened by high land prices which affect the amount of affordable space available for business start-ups. The SIA report thus calls for a long-term spatial plan for the area, termed KQ 2050. This plan will ensure future development in the KQ is managed in such a way that it can continue to deliver research, technology and entrepreneurialism, and the subsequent investment, that will power the UK economy for decades to come.
Universities and Science Minister Chris Skidmore said: “We are world-leaders across a range of science and research disciplines, and the SIAs published today show the whole nation contributes to that reputation. We are committed to building on these strengths and others in our modern Industrial Strategy through the largest increase in science funding in a generation.”
Professor Jonathan Elliott, Vice Principal for Research and Innovation at the RVC, said: “The RVC has found it extremely valuable to be involved in this Science Innovation Audit. It highlights the benefit to businesses from working with academic institutions in the KQ, to cultivate the entrepreneurial skills necessary to exploit new scientific knowledge. With the Government’s aim to see investment in research and development increase to 2.4% of GDP, making sure the links between academia and business are fully exploited will become increasingly important.”
Ray Kent, Director of Research Administration at the RVC and author of the SIA Summary Report, said: “The SIA of London’s Knowledge Quarter has provided a wealth of evidence to show that the UK is competing at the highest level internationally in life sciences, data sciences and digital collections. The KQ’s strength lies in the huge pool of talented people based at its universities and research institutes, which act as magnet that is drawing leading knowledge-based businesses to relocate to the area.”
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About the RVC
- The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) is the UK's largest and longest established independent veterinary school and is a constituent College of the University of London.
- The RVC offers undergraduate, postgraduate and CPD programmes in veterinary medicine, veterinary nursing and biological sciences.
- It is currently the only veterinary school in the world to hold full accreditation from AVMA, EAEVE, RCVS and AVBC.
- In 2017, the RVC received a Gold award from the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) – the highest rating a university can receive.
- A research-led institution, the RVC maintained its position as the top veterinary institution in the Research Excellence Framework (2014), with 79% of its submission being rated as world-class or internationally excellent.
- The College also provides animal owners and the veterinary profession with access to expert veterinary care and advice through its teaching hospitals: the Beaumont Sainsbury Animal Hospital in central London, the Queen Mother Hospital for Animals (Europe's largest small animal referral centre), the Equine Referral Hospital and the Farm Animal Clinical Centre located at the Hertfordshire campus.