One to Watch 2014: Bristol
With a reputation for innovation and a highly-skilled workforce, Bristol could finally be on the cusp of significant change.
Bristol has long been home to a selection of specialist industries, including advanced manufacturing, aerospace and environmental technology. These specialist industries have set the scene for the city as a hotbed of innovation, attracting both highly-skilled labour and cutting-edge companies.
According to the Centre for Cities, Bristol is ranked tenth in the UK in terms of high-level qualifications, with 38.6% of the population holding a qualification at NVQ level 4. The city is also ranked 7th for innovation ΓÇô ahead of London, Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds ΓÇô with 8.3 patents awarded per 100,000 residents in 2012.*
The city has also seen a healthy level of startup business activity in recent years. So will 2014 be the year all that innovation injects new life into the city?
City Deal to reinvigorate Bristol?
Over the last few years, Bristol has gained a reputation as the city that never builds, with the BBC recently describing it as ΓÇ£beset by planning inertiaΓÇ¥. But all that may be set to change, with several sources ΓÇô the Centre for Cities and Jones Lang LaSalle among them ΓÇô predicting a strong year ahead for the city.
The Bristol City Deal agreed in 2012 has given more power to the city, including greater control of investment and how it is spent. Already, a new sense of energy is being felt. Plans to build a ┬ú91m arena in the city may finally be back on track, with the new facility expected to reach completion in 2017. Once completed, the 12,000-capacity venue is expected to boost the local economy by ┬ú110m. Meanwhile, after much initial opposition, plans by Bristol City FC to improve their stadium have also been approved.
In terms of office space, work to build 2 Glass Wharf, also within the Temple Quarter, began in Autumn 2013. It is the first new speculative office development in the city for four years, and will create 98,000 sq ft of Grade A offices.
But itΓÇÖs not all about large-scale projects. In December, the city launched its new creative business hub. Known as the Engine Shed, the specialist centre provides office space and support facilities for small creative and innovation-led businesses. It has transformed a disused building and given it a new purpose, helping to boost the cityΓÇÖs startup business community.
Fresh availability of business space
The latest serviced office research from officebroker.com revealed a relatively stable 2013 for Bristol. Businesses based in serviced offices here seem content to stay put, which may well be testament to the high quality space and high level of service provided within BristolΓÇÖs business centres, which also have a reputation as some of the most creative office space outside London. This stability has also contributed to a 9% rise in the average price, which was ┬ú250 per desk per month in 2013.
However, the availability of serviced offices is set to increase in 2014. i2 is due to open a new business centre in the Temple Quarter later this month. It will bring brand new Grade A serviced office space ΓÇô complete with high-spec IT infrastructure ΓÇô to the city centre. Other serviced office providers are also expected to improve their offering in the city this year.
On the map: key locations to watch:
- Bristol Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone: The main business district for Bristol. Engine Shed is based here, and it is also the proposed location for the new arena. In total, the zone is home to 350 businesses including IBM, HSBC and BT, as well as a wide range of smaller creative businesses. The Temple Meads train station is also at the heart of the zone.
- Filwood Green Business Park ΓÇô brand new business park currently under construction and expected to open in early 2015. The new park has been specifically designed to attract low carbon and environmental businesses. A mix of offices, workshops and incubation space is being provided on the site, which will also have a host of green features including charging points for electric vehicles, green roofs and a wetland ecology area.
What do you think? Will 2014 see Bristol make big changes? Are you based in Bristol? Share your thoughts below.
*Statistics from Centre for Cities Outlook 2014