CWL 2018: Diversity and knowledge crucial to the capital’s future

West London’s diverse population and the sub-region’s huge strength in the knowledge industries will play a vital role in the future success of the capital.

That was the message from four leading experts at the inaugural Capital West London Growth Summit earlier this week.

Laura Citron, CEO London & Partners, gave a keynote introduction to the panel “Staying Ahead in the Knowledge Economy” featuring Michael Lewis, Chair Iplato Healthcare, John Anderson, Director of Financial Strategy, Imperial College London and Cllr Stephan Cowan, Leader LB Hammersmith & Fulham.

“One of London’s biggest selling points is diversity, depth of talents and skills in knowledge economy,” said Citron (below).

“London is 2,000 years old but we are continually reinventing ourselves and that is why I am optimistic about the future. This is the place to come and build a global future. London has global competitive advantage in knowledge industries and West London plays a big part of this.

“It’s diversity is an advantage because companies such as those in artificial intelligence need to develop their products in a place where they can learn from and test them with people from different cultures.”

Cowan highlighted the importance of the huge companies within West London already.

“The combination of the BBC, Imperial, ITV, and many other start-ups like iPlato, provide an eco-system for West London to thrive,” he said. “We are fortunate to be perfectly placed between the city and Heathrow. How do you make sure that local people are not standing with their noses pressed up against the glass? Involve them, take them with us in an open market.

“What we are providing is affordable, flexible workspace. That allows growth space for new businesses.”

Anderson talked about Imperial College’s importance to the capital and the huge regeneration project ongoing at White City.

“We feel we are a really important part of London, and indeed West London,” he said. “We sprang from the first knowledge quarter, and the great exhibition, launched in the grotty marshlands of the market gardens of Kensington and Knightsbridge. Now look.

“White City was a response to not being able to grow beyond out boundaries. It’s an opportunity for us to go back to our base, to show we are part of the knowledge community where we are based, and to contribute to the regeneration of an area.

“You need to provide world-class facilities to attract world-class talent. Then flexible long-term complex facilities for them to move on and scale up. That is what we are doing. It’s at least a 30-year journey, but Imperial will exist in perpetuity, and do not have shareholders to satisfy. We simply want to compete with our university peer group.”

Lewis said the location of Iplato’s headquarters in Hammersmith, and having Imperial on the doorstep, were ideal to attract the best talent from around the globe.

“I have an incredibly international workforce,” he said. “Hammersmith helps, as a connected location. I am looking to Imperial to train more people in maths so we can be in the driving seat of artificial intelligence development.

“I’m shifting huge amounts of data around. So, I need the infrastructure for that.”

The panel all agreed that the number one priority in the future is the need for super-fast broadband.

“If the government wants to protect us going forward, the priority has to be superfast broadband,” added Cllr Cowan.

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