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Hull - city of science and culture

Hull Minster - one of Hull's fine historic buildings.

This week Future Cities Forum spoke to Hull City Council's Director of Economic Development and Regeneration, Mark Jones, about developments across the Northern seaport city post Covid-19.

Hull has important historic buildings to draw on as cultural attractions, including an 18th century theatre and the gothic minster - which is the largest Anglican church in England. These are central to its development plan as is a strong retail district, but the city is also looking to science and healthcare R&D as well as digital industries to put the future on a strong footing.

Mark described how important post the Corona virus it is to keep regeneration going:

'We have our last World War Two bombsite to regenerate.This is the Albion Square area and with £80 million of investment, we will replace the car park with a mixed use development including offices, retail and residential along with an ice arena.

'Another £30 million project - which includes the largest Heritage Lottery Fund award in the UK of £13.6 million - given in October last year, supports our 800 year maritime history and our continued work on the museums offer in the city. The last side winder trawler, the Arctic Corsair is our floating museum, having been a veteran of the 'cod wars' in the 1970's when she was rammed by an Icelandic gun-boat and is set to be preserved as is another ship, the Spurn Lightship'.

The Heritage Fund states that following the success of the UK City of Culture 2017, Hull is using the momentum to transform its rich heritage and become a world-class visitor destination. The heritage-led regeneration scheme affects the entire city, creating a new sense of place, identity and belonging. The Dock Office Chambers will be made suitable to house maritime collections and the North End Shipyard will continue as an accessible interpretation centre.

The new museum project will be linked to the Queen's Gardens which was originally Hull's first dock before becoming public gardens and a venue for festivals.

'It's about the creative use of space,' Marks explained, 'Queen's Gardens was originally designed in the 1930's and it is a green lung in the heart of the city. With the Environment Agency we are also involved with a flood event project. We are looking at creating blue infrastructure for high water events so we can hold water and then release it . Flood mitigation has been working well.' The Queen's Gardens police station is currently being redeveloped into apartments overlooking the park space.

Mark believes that Hull has never had to reinvent itself, and still has strong maritime connections, supporting wind farms in the North Sea:

'We see ourselves as a leading city in low carbon renewable energy sector with very large wind turbines made here.

'Health R&D is an additional growth area for the city with Reckitt Benckiser, Hull York Medical school and Smith and Nephew as important employers. We are very keen to grow the knowledge economy with R&D to the fore, as this gives you some control over your destiny. In recent years the city has added five new research facilities with Groupe Atlantic, Croda International as well as Smith & Nephew and these are linked to production centres as well. It has been our intent to bring in more R&D both at a big corporate and small company level. Reckitt Benckiser (RB) opened a new £105 million R&D facility in December 2019.'

Creating a reputation in the city for technology expertise has been another drive.One of the young technology companies prospering in Hull is 'Sauce'. The software company is based in the Fruit Market and was set up to develop mobile applications and IoT solutions for international and small businesses.

Chief Executive Matt Weldon explained how the Centre for Digital Innovation (C4Di), a privately run technology incubator in Hull was instrumental in helping the company to get a new contract with the confectionary company, Nestle, and how the firm's software platform is helping with logistics and yard management:

'When we get into these development projects for clients it often comes down to communications and tracking data. Logistics can be an archaic industry with two-way radios and paper-based processes, so we have helped to digitise the operation of the delivery yard in York. The Nestle depot now has a much better idea on status of arriving trucks and how delivery handling is progressing. Nestle has 400 sites over the world, so they hope to roll this out internationally.

'The guys on site have now effectively got a 'micro Uber' and they will get a ping on their phone when they need to pick something up. It's a good stock tracker and Nestle feels it is making much more of its logistics operation. We designed a bespoke system for them but we feel the same approach could be applied to the working of ports and the tracking of logistics across any mode of transport.

Future Cities Forum will be following developments across these industries in Hull and will be discussing technology, port and logistics topics in later forums.

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