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Future Cities Forum 'Innovation Cities 2024' in Bristol


Image: Arnolfini Arts (Arnolfini Bristol) by Hannah Atkinson



Future Cities Forum is holding 'Innovation Cities 2024' this coming January, at Arnolfini Arts in Bristol, in the historic Grade II listed harbourside building, Bush House. Director Gary Topp will be speaking alongside government, arts leaders, scientists, investors, developers, architects and planners.


Cultural economy and innovation


Bristol City Council says the cultural sector in Bristol contributes £476 million to the city's economy annually and is a catalyst for talent attraction and retention, inward investment and tourism, innovation and competitiveness.


Arnolfini Arts Arnolfini is Bristol’s International Centre for Contemporary Arts located in the heart of the city. presenting an ambitious and wide-ranging programme of visual art, performance, dance, film, and music. Arnolfini is a pioneering public space for arts and learning, offering an innovative, inclusive and engaging experience for all. Bush House is also part of the University of the West of England, Bristol’s City Campus with over 300 students and tutors onsite.


The UK government has recognised the value to the economy of the cultural sector and its role in innovation. Recent data from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) shows that the creative industries sector contributed £109bn to the UK economy in 2021. This is equivalent to 5.6% of the UK economy that year. The largest subsector within the creative industries was IT, software and computer services, which accounted for 2.3% of the UK economy in 2021. (These figures are based on monthly estimates for gross value added (GVA).)


Science and Innovation


Future Cities Forum will also be looking during its event at the development of world-class innovation in the science, engineering and technology areas, following news that regional clusters of world-class innovation across the UK are being backed by a share of £75 million of UK government funding, that will boost local economies and pioneer game-changing solutions from healthcare to net zero,


The UK government has chosen the Great South West as an area for its Marine and Maritime Launchpad, so Future Cities Forum will be holding the 'Innovation Cities 2024' forum in Bristol to highlight the important research work that is taking place in the region, but also to look at other industry innovation that is taking place across the UK.


Following pilots in Liverpool and Teesside, launched earlier this year, a further eight Launchpads, facilitated by Innovate UK, will be rolled out across every nation of the UK. These initiatives will build on existing clusters of high-tech innovation in each region, such as renewable energy in Southwest Wales, Agri-tech in East Anglia and digital health in Yorkshire. Launchpads is a programme that supports emerging clusters of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) by providing each Launchpad up to £7.5 million from Innovate UK to fund innovation projects led by local businesses.


The £7.5 million bespoke funding from each Launchpad will allow SMEs in each region to bid for support that is tailored to the unique needs of each business cluster, helping them drive innovation, expand operations, and boost their local economies. Launchpads concentrate their support in specific areas of the UK with strong innovation capabilities. This approach encourages close collaboration with local leaders and provides tailored support, including funding for research and development, access to specialised innovation resources, and opportunities for SMEs to connect, share ideas, and participate in joint ventures.


Plymouth as research base for Floating Offshore Wind


Plymouth City Council in partnership with Celtic Sea Power Ltd recently held the city’s first Floating Offshore Wind (FLOW) conference to help Plymouth businesses capitalise on opportunities opening up with FLOW development in the Celtic Sea.


This is driven by the UK’s need for energy security and big ambitions for achieving Net Zero and the Celtic Sea, off the coast of North Devon and Cornwall is at the heart of it.


Activity has begun already, with a series of Test and Demonstration sites to be installed off the coasts of Cornwall, SW England and Wales by 2030 before roll-out at full commercial scale. This offers huge opportunities for Plymouth and the wider region – but also huge challenges.


The UK is committed to achieving its net zero and energy security ambitions and to support this, the Crown Estate and the organisations in charge of identifying and leasing appropriate sites for floating wind arrays in UK waters, will shortly offer new leasing opportunities in the Celtic Sea for the first generation of commercial-scale floating offshore windfarms. This will unlock up to 4GW of new clean energy capacity by 2035, kick-starting a new industry in the region, and providing power to almost four million homes.


Plymouth City Council is keen to examine the expected requirements for FLOW and to explore where and how Plymouth’s businesses can build from existing strengths to help deliver FLOW via some of our fantastic advanced manufacturing companies and wealth of marine innovation businesses in Plymouth.


Leader of the Council Councillor Tudor Evans OBE said: “We have recently commissioned an urgent piece of work with partners to identify how Plymouth can make the most of the FLOW opportunities.


“It’s going to be absolutely massive and our work has already received national recognition. We are working on a prospectus and this FLOW conference in October for those looking to do business with the Celtic Sea developments.”


He added “This coupled with our first ever ports strategy and looking at increasing the economic output of all our four ports – Devonport, Millbay, Sutton Harbour and Cattewater, we are already a UK port powerhouse, but we want to do more.


"We recently signed an historic agreement with the Association British Ports and Brittany Ferries to work more closely together to support the docks to grow and to work towards Net Zero, including the provision of electric shore power. The opportunity to be a part of FLOW for Plymouth is huge and we want to ensure our businesses form part of this major supply chain opportunity.”


The Marine and Maritime in the Great South West Launchpad has been developed jointly by Ocean Futures, an international thematic cluster that represents the marine hotbed of innovation for the Plymouth and South Devon Freeport, working in partnership with the Heart of the South West LEP, Maritime UK SW, Innovate UK, and its various industry and research partners. The Launchpad is tailored to provide grants to businesses that develop products that strengthen regional core capabilities and satisfy global market opportunities.


The Marine and Maritime in the Great South West Launchpad will accelerate growth opportunities of innovative SMEs with high growth potential in Cornwall and Isles of Scilly, Devon, Dorset and Somerset by offering access to innovation funding, access to world leading facilities, and expertise and regional leadership through the Ocean Futures, Maritime UK SW and Heart of the SW LEP strategic partnership.


Climate change and green energy


Bristol's economy is still influenced by its location next to the sea and its historic ports. However, technology, tourism, the film industry, aerospace, financial services and the arts play a critical role in its sustainability as a city. Up until 2020 Bristol City Council research suggested that the city was growing fast with a projected 2.3 percent annual growth rate, but the Office of National Statistics suggests that currently there is a slow down in employment. Climate change and green energy have been a particular focus for Bristol. Invest in Bristol + Bath states:


'Bristol is one of Europe’s leading cities in climate action and the UK’s only city to be awarded European Green Capital. Its City Leap Energy Partnership is expected to invest over £1bn in smart, sustainable energy. City Leap is a pioneering initiative to package together net zero projects at scale to attract private investment.


'Bristol city is regenerating responsibly, putting sustainable growth at the heart of everything it does. The city has strong demand for more housing; must provide jobs for the growing population and at the same time, Bristol wants to enhance its already well-regarded public spaces and natural environment. This ambition creates wide-ranging investment opportunities for partners who share Bristol’s values and believe in being part of the city’s long-term outlook.'


Furthermore the organisation 'Original by Bristol' says:


'Avonmouth is at the centre of Bristol’s industrial, warehousing, energy generation and recycling, and new value-adding ‘circular economy’ activities. Despite its strategic location next to the Port of Bristol, the area had been under-used for a number of years. To put that right, the Avonmouth Severnside Enterprise Area (ASEA) was created in 2013 to support a 25-year growth strategy and open up potential for development. The ASEA has since received around £140 million of public investment – from local authorities, the Environment Agency and the Highways Agency – to improve flood defences, create a new wetland habitat area for eco-mitigation, provide a new junction direct to the M49, improve public transport and install full fibre broadband. There is also a proposal seeking funding to create a skills academy with a focus on the area’s growing industrial sectors.


'Such schemes will improve both Avonmouth’s long-term climate resilience and its accessibility, opening up the potential of 60 hectares of brown- and greenfield sites for strategic development, and connect employers in the area to local communities, providing new jobs and opportunities to re-skill. Fifty per cent of the jobs in the area are in transport, storage and wholesale activity. Of Bristol’s transport and storage jobs, 45.8% are in the Avonmouth area. ASEA will provide a £358 million boost to the city economy. Located close to A4/M49/M4/M5 connections to Bristol, South West and Wales'


In the area of arts, Bristol City Council has 'The City of Openess, Imagination and Originators Strategy' to help build on the contribution of the cultural industries to the city's economy of £476 million annually. It claims that it is growing at a faster rate than the UK average and is a catalyst for talent attraction, retention, for inward investment and tourism.



The future for AI


Future Cities Forum will also be discussing development in AI at the event in Bristol. The UK government has confirmed the University of Bristol will host the new AI Research Resource (AIRR), which will serve as a national facility to help researchers maximise the potential of AI and support critical work into the potential and safe use of the technology. It says:


'The world-class AIRR cluster will vastly increase the UK’s compute capacity – essential to achieving the UK’s AI ambitions and securing its place as a world-leader in harnessing the rapidly developing technology. The cluster, which will be made up of thousands of state-of-the-art graphics processing units, or GPUs, will be able to train the large language models that are at the forefront of AI research and development today.


'Compute refers to the systems assembled at scale to process complicated tasks, and is integral not just to the science and technology ecosystem but to the running of modern economies. This new national facility will help to underpin the UK’s next-generation compute infrastructure, in line with the recommendations of the independent Future of Compute Review.

'The new AIRR will be dubbed Isambard-AI after Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the engineer whose ground-breaking creations – including Bristol’s famous Suspension Bridge – transformed Britain and revolutionised transport and construction.


The Isambard-AI cluster will be one of the most powerful supercomputers in Europe, and will help industry experts and researchers harness the game-changing potential of AI, including through the mission-critical work of our Frontier AI Taskforce. Plans for the AIRR were announced in March, backed by a £900 million investment to transform the UK’s computing capacity and establish a dedicated AI Research Resource.


Bristol already plays host to cutting-edge computing technology, with the Isambard 3 supercomputer due to be installed later this year to support research in AI and machine learning, while the University of Bristol is home to the UKRI Centre for Doctoral Training in Interactive Artificial intelligence. Both Isambard 3 and Isambard-AI will be based at the National Composites Centre, in collaboration with the GW4 group of universities – an alliance made up of the Universities of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter.


Simon McIntosh-Smith, Professor of High Performance Computing at the University of Bristol and project lead, said:


'We’re delighted to be chosen as the site to host the UK’s first ever Artificial Intelligence Research Resource.

Isambard-AI will be one of the world’s first, large-scale, open AI supercomputers, and builds on our expertise designing and operating cutting-edge computational facilities, such as the incoming Isambard 3.'


Professor Phil Taylor, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise at the University of Bristol, said:


'AI is expected to be as important as the steam age, with ramifications across almost every area of academia and industry. Bristol’s proud to be at the forefront of this revolution. To be selected to host a new national AI supercomputer speaks to the University’s cutting-edge research into AI and machine learning. We have unique expertise in rapidly building and deploying large-scale research computing infrastructure and we’re excited to play an integral part in establishing the UK as an international hub for AI.'


Join us for this exciting research forum where we will be recording the debate for publication to our wider online community.






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