Innovation district will pilot the future of aviation

A blueprint for a new innovation district in West London has been launched in response to the devastating economic impact of COVID-19 on the individuals, communities and businesses that make up the aviation sector.

Far-sighted plans reimagining the area around Heathrow as a global hub for innovation and a green economic powerhouse were unveiled at the virtual Blue Skies Conference, coordinated by West London Business. Local, national and global leaders came together to discuss their vision to reinvigorate the economy, drive sustainable green growth and create opportunities for new jobs.

At the heart of the intervention is a new innovation district in West London – dubbed the Silicon Valley of Aviation. The district will create an environment where innovators develop and test new ideas in partnerships with major industry, investors and academia. Innovations will be piloted, revised and developed at-scale in a living laboratory for the 21st century – with its hub at the Central Research Laboratory accelerator in Hayes.

The UK has the largest aviation network in Europe and the third biggest in the world. Heathrow – and its ecosystem – underpins this network. West London is uniquely positioned to leverage its history and tradition of transport innovation to ensure a sustainable recovery.

Intended to secure large-scale opportunities for new investment, growth and jobs, the innovation district was first proposed by West London borough councils in response to the impact of COVID-19 on the sub-region, and has been taken forward by the Blue Skies conference steering network co-chaired by Feltham and Heston MP Seema Malhotra and Andrew Dakers, CEO of West London Business.

Seema Malhotra MP said: “Rebuilding our West London economy requires new thinking and new ambition. We know thousands of people and future generations depend on the choices we make today about how we plan for future growth. We are seeking new partnerships between local and national government, industry, investors and education to drive innovation. With the scale of the challenge ahead, it’s crucial that we push the boundaries of ambition for how we create and sustain the jobs of the future for the children of today.”

Andrew Dakers, Chief Executive of West London Business said: “Two strategic drivers will shape the future of transport and the economy surrounding Heathrow – green growth and the impact of digital and virtual technologies as we look to realise our path to decarbonisation and becoming a green economy powerhouse. The innovation district will enable us to focus on both areas, supporting businesses across the sub-region in the process.”

John Holland-Kaye, CEO of Heathrow said: “COVID-19 has significantly challenged Heathrow, the aviation sector and the local communities our industry supports. As the largest gateway to Britain, Heathrow will be an enabler of UK economic growth post-COVID, providing critical support to both the national and local recovery.

“However, the success of our recovery is dependent on us working together, therefore I welcome the creation of the West London innovation district as a great initiative for valuable collaboration, which will look to solve our collective challenges and help to ensure that as we build back, we build back better.”

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