The Mayor of London Boris Johnson has launched a £20m fund aimed at re-energising the capital’s high streets by embracing the city’s talent for creativity and technological innovation.
The London Regeneration Fund will give local authorities, traders’ associations, workspace providers and community groups the chance to come forward with exciting proposals that will help new and traditional places of work thrive in a rapidly changing city.
To launch the campaign, the Mayor’s Office is hosting a ‘Regen Bootcamp’ with ‘open ideas’ sessions that will see designers, architects, tech innovators and social entrepreneurs collaborate with local authorities, community and business organisations to thrash out innovative ideas to support London’s high streets and places of work.
Innovative ideas could include giving customers the opportunity to pay with their contactless credit card at a market stall or providing customised discounts and services for local shops straight to customers’ mobile phones. It may also include smart technology that could lead to more intelligent parking systems in local town centres or street bollards that retract when less mobile people approach.
The London Regeneration Fund is being launched by the Mayor through the London Enterprise Panel following a successful bid to government in January 2015 as part of the LEP’s Growth Deal. The fund forms part of the LEP’s work to champion small and medium sized enterprises and builds on the Mayor’s longstanding belief that London’s high streets are great places to visit, live in and do business in.
The fund builds on the Mayor’s longstanding belief that London’s high streets are great places to visit, live in and do business in. He has already invested £129m and levered in about £75m in match funding that has helped more than 85 high streets adapt to changing circumstances and thrive. This funding has also seen 1,000 shopfronts improved, hundreds of jobs created and training and support received by 3,500 businesses and young people.
Johnson said: “Our dynamic high streets are teeming with economic activity and bristling with creative minds but we need to make sure they are equipped to meet the demands of our ever-changing city. This fund will take everything that is so good about our local town centres and fuse it with ground-breaking technology and innovation to create high streets that will power our economy for years to come.”
London’s 800,000 small and medium-sized businesses account for nearly half of the capital’s jobs and generate approximately £430bn turnover. The Mayor believes they hold the potential for much of London’s future enterprise, innovation and economic growth, but are struggling to find workspace.
The capital is also Europe’s most important tech hub, with its 40,000 technology businesses employing almost 200,000 people and forecast to generate around £18bn worth of economic activity for the London economy in 2015.
The Mayor is particularly keen to see proposals that create new open workspaces such as incubators, co-working spaces, maker-spaces and artists’ studios, or secure their long term affordability. He is also throwing down the gauntlet for ideas that intensify the diminishing stock of lower cost space in and around high streets and industrial areas, vital for new and growing businesses.
The Regen Bootcamp, facilitated by social innovators Year Here, will take place at the Foundry in Vauxhall, a former shoe factory that now lets out flexible office, conference and meeting space. The Bootcamp will take inspiration from case studies on successful high street projects which have made innovative use of food, art, retail and technology to support regeneration. Presentations will explore how developing technologies, social innovations and burgeoning levels of data on how we live have been harnessed for the benefit of local regeneration.
Speaking at the Bootcamp is Ross Atkin, whose ‘Manifesto for the Clever City’ argues for the better use of city data and technology to improve high street spaces.
He said: “Running a small design and technology company that’s soon to be homeless due to a 400% rent increase imposed on our co-working space by the building owner I’m acutely aware of the issues that small innovative businesses face finding suitable and affordable workspace.
“Much of my work is concerned with how technology can make environments, like high streets, work better for the different people who use them so I’m really excited that the LDA is applying that thinking to this problem. I hope that through the bootcamp we can identify opportunities to provide affordable workspaces for the long term, not just attention grabbing initiatives destined to disappear when the funding runs out.”
The fund is open to proposals from boroughs, as well as sub and regional partnerships, town teams and business improvement districts, workspace providers, community groups and charities within London.
The deadline for applications is October 2015 and successful applicants will be notified by January 2015.