Private Event

Open Places: Innovation and the Public Realm

This event has already taken place.

Centre for London is hosting a one-and-a-half-day seminar on behalf of the Transatlantic Innovation District Partnership – a research partnership between Centre for London and The Brookings Institution.

The seminar will bring together economists, planners, urban designers, architects and developers to explore the relationship between placemaking and innovation, urban design and economic development.

This event builds on previous research carried out by Centre for London and the Bass Initiative – a collaboration between The Brookings Institution and Project for Public Spaces. During it we will discuss existing research, share best practice and hear from leading experts from a range of organisations

The rise of the ‘mix’

As urbanisation accelerates and cities seek to capitalise on the growth of the knowledge economy, the value of public space and social infrastructure to urban economies should come into sharper focus. The era of centrally-planned single-use business districts is being replaced by a focus on mix – mixed use, mixed public-private provision and management, and a mixed offer that attracts innovative firms and workers to urban centres.

The aim of this seminar is to evaluate what do we know about how these public spaces affect innovation and knowledge-spillovers and how the dominance of the knowledge economy impacts the design, use, and management of public space.

We will combine academic research, lessons from policymakers, and the experiences of planners architects, developers, and businesses to tackle the following questions:

  • Is existing thinking about knowledge spillovers, clusters, and placemaking useful in understanding the relationship between the public ream, innovation and economic development?
  • How can innovation districts avoid the homogenisation of public spaces? How can an emphasis on shaping like-minded communities of high-skilled individuals co-exist with urban values of cultural and social diversity?
  • How are existing institutions like universities and cultural institutions adapting to the innovation economy, and impact is the innovation economy having on the design and management of institutions and the spaces between them? 
  • What are the best governance frameworks for creating cohesive and inclusive visions for innovation districts? Does more need to be done to engage existing as well as new residents, businesses, and communities?

The Innovation and Public Realm seminar is an invite-only event.

As places are limited, we will notify you via email whether we are able to accommodate your request. If you are interested in presenting or speaking at the seminar, please email

Register your interest in attending

Read a summary of the main themes, case studies and issues discussed over the two days.

Registration and Opening Remarks

The theory of innovative places: Understanding the theories of agglomeration and open innovation

Chair: Ben Rogers, Founding Director Centre for London

Dr Max Nathan, Senior Birmingham Fellow in Regional Economic Development, University of Birmingham

Julie Wagner, Non-Resident Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution

Nate Storring, Research Associate, Project for Public Spaces

Mark Kleinman, Director, Economic and Business Policy Greater London Authority

From Alfred Marshall to Jane Jacobs, there is a large body of literature linking cities, agglomeration and innovation. This session will set out the principles behind successful agglomeration economies, from clusters to cities.


Going beyond buildings: Open innovation and the public and private realm


Chair: Steve Davies, Executive Vice President, Project for Public Spaces

Prof Matthew Carmona, Professor of Planning and Urban Design, The Bartlett School of Planning

Darryl Chen, Partner, Hawkins Brown

Liza Fior, muf architecture/art LLP

Lucy Musgrave, Director, Publica

Open offices and co-working spaces may champion collaboration and open innovation, but do these principles translate to the public realm? What does open innovation mean for third spaces, and the permeability between the public and private realm? How important is open-minded public realm design in encouraging openness and collaboration, and what are the design principles that enable this?

Lunch & Networking

The value of place


Chair: Julie Wagner, Non Resident Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution

Alan Penn, Professor of Architectural and Urban Computing, and Dean of The Bartlett

Mar Santamaria-Varas, Urban Landscape Researcher and Barcelona Tech Professor

Indy Johar, Co-founder, 00

Juliette Morgan, Head of Campus, British Land

Ethan Kent, Senior Vice President, Project for Public Spaces

Public spaces are the common spaces of the city, the place where people have met for centuries to trade, to debate, and to form new friendships and alliances. What types of places foster innovation today, and does the innovation economy place a premium on placemaking? From a developer perspective, is placemaking about more than attracting tenants and customers, or is there an added value created by spaces that support open innovation?

Do ‘like-minded communities’ mean ‘like-minded places’?


Chair: Charles Leadbeater

Jacob Loftus, Chief Executive, General Projects

Kat Hanna, Insights Associate, Cushman & Wakefield

Anna Minton, Writer, Journalist and Reader in Architecture at the University of East London

Jack Sallabank, Founder, The Future Places Studio

Many downtown developments and placemaking projects cite the importance of ‘vibrancy’ and ‘authenticity’, referencing local food, culture, and industrial heritage, but this in itself risks becoming a generic look and feel. What are the implications of the commodification of existing spaces, and the incursion of ‘work’ into areas traditionally intended for play?

Day Two

Registration and Opening Remarks

Networks, Social Capital and Inclusion


Chair: Kat Hanna, Insight Associate, Cushman and Wakefield

Daisy Froud, Founder, AOC Architecture

David Skelton, Public Policy Manager, Google

Emma Frost, Head of Communities and Business, LLDC

Tim Rettler, Principal Project Manager, Regeneration, GLA

Both the design and management of place can enable (or impede) networking and inclusion. How can innovation districts use placemaking to create and sustain innovation communities that include rather than exclude local people? What role can the programming of events in public spaces play in shaping and sustaining social capital, and building inclusive communities?

Institutions and Governance


Chair: Ben Rogers, Founding Director Centre for London

Tarek Virani, Associate Lecturer and Research, Queen Mary University of London

Simon Pitkeathley, Chief Executive, Camden Town Unlimited

Jodie Eastwood, Chief Executive, Knowledge Quarter

Claire Lowe, Partnerships Manager, Corridor Manchester

What does place management look like in the context of the innovation economy – who are the new stakeholders and institutions, and what role should they play in shaping and managing the public realm. How are existing institutions like universities and cultural establishments adapting to the innovation economy, and what more needs to be done to guide and support these institutions? What are the ideal best governance frameworks for creating cohesive and inclusive visions for innovation districts?

Closing Remarks

Principal Sponsor


Places that work

08.00–09.30 11 July 2018

Venue: GVA, 65 Gresham Street, London EC2V 7NQ