By Hui Chai and Adar Schneider, Urban Economic Development, The Bartlett Development Planning Unit, University College London
The previous blog of this two-part piece looked at the value of shared workspaces to businesses; this week’s post will focus on the support provided by other major cities to develop shared workspaces, and the lessons London could learn from these practices.
Support given to shared workspaces in other cities
> Shared workspaces are being incorporated into economic development strategies. Singapore, Shanghai and Hong Kong all use innovation strategies that include creating and supporting incubators. Paris and New York have affordable shared workspace at the heart of their entrepreneurship development strategies.
> Shared workspaces can fill previously unproductive spaces such as alleys, rooftops and historic buildings. Sometimes this is to lower costs, sometimes it is to bring new footfall to an area and other times it is to add aesthetic or placemaking value.
> Makerspaces are entering the shared workspace arena, especially in cities that are branding locally-made products. New York, San Francisco Hong Kong and Paris are supporting artist studios and other makers, such as woodworking, jewellery, fashion design, and commercial kitchens.
> Coworking spaces have the potential to support community initiatives. By opening up their space to public events, hosting non-profits in their space, and cross-supporting local businesses, coworking spaces have a potential to make a positive impact on their communities.
> City governments are setting up incubators in industries related to “smart cities”. Singapore and Hong Kong are examples of cities which have directly established incubators in high tech, financial tech, and green tech to address urban problems.
> City governments are also supporting public-interest incubators. In Paris and New York, for example, spaces and incubators that are tailored to women entrepreneurs, innovation in public service delivery and community development receive subsidies.
> City governments are organising and sponsoring conferences that are centred around networking. For example, the 2012 Coworking Europe Conference in Paris. The Shanghai government invites representatives from the most influential incubators to give speeches in some global conferences and forums to build their reputation and influence.
The chart below demonstrates that city governments are playing an active role in shaping the competitiveness of shared workspaces. Several policy instruments are frequently used in practice, including space provision, finance and business support.
What’s next for London?
London is already participating in the shared workspace market in several important ways. As a global city that has always been a centre for finance, culture, history and business, it is unsurprising that small businesses want to start here. We believe London has the ability to achieve many of its development goals by using shared workspaces. We recommend considering the following policy tools.
> Attract new business and increase employment by investing in incubators directly with startup grants to support early stage SMEs and increasing the London Co-Investment Fund to gain equity in accelerators.
> Support international exposure by hosting global conferences and sending speakers to conferences related to flexible work.
> Make it easy for business to operate flexibly by increasing freely available internet connectivity through city-wide wifi.
> Support disadvantaged entrepreneurs by investing in incubators that target underrepresented groups such as women or POC entrepreneurs.
> Support community development by encouraging coworking spaces to host community events or donate space for volunteer opportunities.
> Improve public service provision by supporting technology incubators which innovate to meet “smart city” goals.
> Attract creative entrepreneurs and maintain affordable workspace by continuing friendly planning regulations to allow coworking spaces in “meanwhile” spaces and in historic buildings to lower the cost.
> Support light manufacturing and demand for London-made products by encouraging affordable shared makerspaces and increasing the branding of “Made in London” and cultural identity.
> Allow micro businesses, the self-employed and artists to benefit from shared workspace by keeping rents stable in specified zones.
Cities that are active in promoting incubators and other shared workspaces are benefitting from creative ideas that have transformative effects on the economy and the city as a whole. Shared workspaces have the potential to increase value capture for the city, spur innovation, and protect the vibrant culture and creativity that makes the city such an important place. Our full report is accessible online, and we welcome any questions about our research.
Special thanks to:
Dr Margarethe Theseira UCL
Dr Laura Davison, Mr Saif Ullah and their team at the City of London Corporation.