Imperial College London

Universities can accelerate UK innovation policy - Alice Gast


ScaleSpace in White City

ScaleSpace in White City "offers a prototype" for a more ambitious UK Innovation Policy

The UK should support innovation districts clustered "around one of our foremost competitive advantages: universities", argues Imperial's President.

Writing in today's Financial Times, Professor Alice Gast said: "The British government’s innovation strategy aims to 'cement the UK’s position as a world-leader in science, research and innovation'. If we are to achieve that laudable goal, we must focus on the ecosystems that help innovators to thrive." 

She added: "A successful innovation economy has three catalysts: people, places and funding," and universities are central to all three.

This calls for smarter tax incentives, a clearer embrace of international innovators, and more collaboration between government, the private sector and academia. Professor Alice Gast President

This requires further visa reforms, spaces for start-ups and scale-ups in and around universities, and a more ambitious British Business Bank that invests “billions, not just millions, in life sciences start-ups”, Professor Gast writes.   

White City shows what’s possible: "Talented communities require conducive environments and places to interact. We need to build ecosystems that are right for their locality. It’s no surprise that these places are typically near universities, which are ideal locations for early-stage innovation. They have flexible spaces, including laboratories, collaborative cultures and supportive environments. 

ScaleSpace, Imperial College’s joint venture with Blenheim Chalcot in London’s White City, offers a prototype. It provides science and tech-friendly workspaces and laboratories, mentoring and access to investors all focused on overcoming the funding problems that often hold back high-growth and high-promise British start-ups."

As the Government implements its Innovation Strategy, President Gast writes: "The foundations exist and the ambition is there for the UK to build something that is more than a pale imitation of Silicon Valley... Now we need concrete investments and specific timeframes. The UK’s great universities are ready to play their part."

The full opinion piece can be read in today's Financial Times and online. 


Andrew Scheuber

Andrew Scheuber
Communications and Public Affairs

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