The four i’s

Professor David Greenaway, Vice Chancellor at Nottingham University has recently set out a view on how Nottingham should prepare itself for the next few years. And he has summed it up as “the four i’s”.


They are – Investment, Infrastructure, Innovation and International.

This really resonates – especially after spending a week in Cannes “selling” the City.

In Nottingham we already tick so many boxes:

Investment – it is what we are seeking – people to throw money our way. We are generating the right environment to attract it. It will be lifeblood of the city.

Infrastructure – we have c.£750m worth of works underway – Tram, A453 and ring road improvements. These underpin the future connectivity of the city. This future-proofs us. It is critical.

Innovation – our message last week was all about the pool of talent in the city – Ibuprofen and MRI were invested here! We have some very bright people and a hot bed of talent at our Universities, BioCity and the creative quarters.

International – we were in Cannes – but more importantly the city have strong links (through the University) with China and Malaysia. The world is getting smaller – we can trade with it.

We have so many great stories to tell and this great mnemonic is easy to remember and easy to deliver on. It is a very simplified message which can be universally translated and used. Our “Talented Nottingham’ message last week slots nicely into it!

Talented Nottingham? You bet!

You will know by now that we’re trying to promote the City on various fronts over the next few months – and ‘Talented Nottingham’ is one of the key messages.

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My good friend and fellow blogger Nick Riley sent me some really interesting facts at the weekend. These were taken from research done in relation to the 2014 Graduate market. Specifically they looked at the Universities targeted by ‘Top Employers’.

Although you might expect that ‘Oxbridge’ would be top – they weren’t. The University of Nottingham trumped them.

Talented companies seeking talented people come to Nottingham first!

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But there was also news last week that one of our local companies (and Clients of my firm) had sold out. The TDX Group sold for £200m. This was huge story for Nottingham. It demonstrates the ‘talent’ agenda, and it shows visibly that we are a national centre for data analytics and software development.

Data analytics should be right up there on our list of USP’s – evidenced by this deal!

Talented, creative and bloody clever?

Carrot and stick? Sustainability – how will we ever change?

If you have dropped by here before you will probably have spotted some stuff about sustainability. Last year I did some research with my friends at the School of Architecture at Nottingham University; the topic was ‘are green buildings more valuable’. The answer was ‘no’. But there was more to it than that!

I’m not sure about ‘global warming’ – the case isn’t helped by the likes of the East Anglia University scandal over match-rigging. If they had been Badminton players we could have just sent them home and forgotten the whole affair. But we can’t – because this is important. And we don’t have transparency. So cynics (like me) will just question the ‘facts’ as we are given them.

But I do wonder what is happening around us. We have just had the wettest summer for 100 years. It has been a wash-out. And when we do get rain, it seems to come monsoon like! Last week I had to pull my car over onto what I assumed was the hard shoulder as I couldn’t see the bonnet!

Perhaps we do need to look after the planet and reduce what we use.

Which got me wondering about when people might change their behaviour. I think it will be when fuel poverty really hits home. We are constantly being warned about how fuel prices are rising. So I wondered about this. Through my office I have obtained the data for wholesale retail prices for gas and electricity going back over 5 years – the data is set out below…

As you can see this isn’t a doom and gloom story of sharp rises. I’m not advocating price increase – far from it. But unless we had a sharp rise which affected people’s pockets we will just continue to be in denial?

The University of Nottingham – the campus grows

Last Friday I was a guest at the Invest in Nottingham Club lunch at The Sir Colin Campbell building. This is the centrepiece of the University’s Jubilee Campus. I had been invited by Nick Riley – a fellow blogger and keen advocate of Nottingham. There’s a link to his blog over on the right somewhere – or here.

Nick gave an overview of some of the projects his firm are involved in – finishing with a building on the Jubilee Campus – the new China Studies building. It looks good and is coming out of the ground now.

Then Chris Jagger from the university took to the floor and set out what had happened on the campus – he took us back to 1995 when the University acquired the first part of the campus from Raleigh. I remember it well – I valued it at the time! I remember driving through the buildings on site – it was the first and last time I have done a survey by driving a car in a building!

Since that time the University have been acquiring more of the land and slowly building a campus. To date they have spent £200m and have a similar amount earmarked for the next 10 years or so.

I think this particular adjunct to the main campus has now reached a tipping point. It is starting to take on the feel of the University. As the latest buildings open over the next 12 months I can see that there will be a critical mass here. There are still some other uses, but they are now in the minority. The campus has a centre piece – the Aspire sculpture. It also has a Starbucks.

The campus is a real success story for Nottingham. I like the architecture, but I know some don’t. It has been described as a ‘zoo of buildings’!

The Nottingham Growth Plan

I was at the launch of the Nottingham Growth Plan last week. It was held at the University of Nottingham campus, the great and good were present.

We heard from Jon Collins, leader of the Council and from David Greenaway at the University amongst others. The launch of this plan is ambitious – in an attempt to get Nottingham back on the map. I think it has much to commend. In particular it focuses on three areas:

* Digital Content
* Lifesciences
* Clean technology

The first sector includes photography, film, computer games and social media. If you want to go and see it first hand, get yourself an invite down to Antenna – the creative heart of nottingham. The place has a palpable buzz. At the monet it is estimated that there are around 6,500 people employed in this growing sector. As the growth pan envisages clustering this should easily grow…

Nottingham has ‘form’ in the science – we have heritage with Jesse Boot and that legacy carries on today. Obviously we still have Boots, but we also have the amazing BioCity. We have one of the largest concentrations of medical technology companies – over 380 based here. And this is where our two Universities are critical – one in four start-ups in this sector spin out from University!

Finally, the clean technologies actor – includes this companies that are looking at low carbon technologies. We have over 7,000 people in 420 small companies in Nottingham working here. Again this has to be a growth area.

So they are the key sectors – but you also need a plan…

The plan is also three fold:

1. The city will foster enterprise – including giving money to kick start business.
2. It will develop a skilled workforce
3. It will build an infrastructure fit for the 21st Century

I like the plan – it is measurable and practical. It should stand Nottingham in good stead for the future…


For the third time in as many weeks I found myself trailing around and exhibition – this time Eco-Build in London. I say London loosely as it was held at ExCel – which is closer to Southend-on-Sea than London I think!

This was a slightly different exhibition from the Building Exhibitions I used to go to at the NEC in Birmingham, the focus not surprisingly was on sustainable design and products. I have to say that some of the products just look as though they have been badged ‘green’ to get their place at the show. It was a massive undertaking – it would take you more than a day to get around the place!

I went to meet a few people, but also to see my friends from Nottingham University – some 2nd year students were exhibiting a pallet shelter which was great fun -although a bit thin on practicality! But there was also a Passive Haus competition run in conjunction with Isover – where Nottingham University had five entrants in the 8 shortlisted schemes. These were all designs centred around Trent Basin Nottingham. there were some really good ideas. The winners were Dan Shanahan and Emmett McNamamra from Edinburgh University. Nottingham students took second and third prizes.

I had a fascinating chat with Prof. Wolfgang Feist – the man who ‘invested’ the Passiv Haus concept. He was a really interesting character and was evangelising the system – explaining that it is not complex. It is about keeping the design simple. And very airtight!

I also saw a containerised student village offering which had been built by Terrapin and designed by Church Lukas Architects in Nottingham. It was really good and a very clever use of the technology of building in factories and then constructing on-site afterwards. The Formula 1 Hotel concept was similar to the Japanese Hotel – it was ‘cosy’ to say the least!

Putting to one side the big glossy stands, I was, once again, impressed by the work produced by the students at the Universities.

A fantastic meal from NG7

I had an amazing meal yesterday at Nottingham University. Lunch was cooked by Nottingham’s only Michelin starred chef -Sat Bains. And as of a few days ago he has not one but two of these stars…


I was at an event about sustainable futures (and more of that in a later blog post) – which was fascinating. It is reckoned that next week the population of the world will pass 7bn. This population growth needs feeding – there will be much more pressure on the food chain.

Sat Bains prepared a meal which had all been sourced locally – he calls it his NG7 menu. We had food foraged from hedgerows – herbs, blackberries, pears. Local cheese and Venison rounded it off. It was delicious.

The last time I ate at Sta Bains was four years ago – and I remember it then being a real experience.

There had been a huge amount of effort put in our meal, but it did show that we don’t always need the food miles to be like telephone numbers. There is real food on our doorstep – and it was very tasty. The slightly amusing thing was that after dessert we were served herbal tea. Coffee plant, of course, isn’t prevalent in Lenton…

The Vice-Chancellor in his introduction of Sat Bains likened a Michelin star to a Nobel Prize. There was certainly plenty of talent on show! And Nottingham is lucky to house that talent.

Invest in Nottingham – go on!

On Monday Nottingham hosted another showcase event for potential investors. It was Invest in Nottingham day!

Last week at Downing Street a couple of our national clients commented on how good it was to see Nottingham promoting ourselves. One in particular, who does work in Bristol, suggested we were miles ahead of them. But that is no reason to pat ourselves on the back – we need to compete with other cities – Birmingham, Leeds and the like.

I was able to to attend two of the ‘events’ n the day – the lunch at Nottingham Trent University and (another) visit to Antenna.

The lunch, sponsored by Westfield, was really well attended and the keynote talk by David Greenaway, VC at the University of Nottingham was particularly well received. David is passionate about Nottingham – and outlined the impact the University has on the City. It has a turnover of £530m, but its economic impact is estimated to be £1bn each year. Their ground breaking work with the MRI scanner was mentioned (I learned for fly many years ago with Sir Peter Mansfield) but latterly there is much excitement about the new early cancer detection test. This is currently being trialled in the USA and the signs are apparently encouraging.

It was also apparent that our two Universities have a wider impact on the City. They contribute to the health and well-being of the place. They help in developing skills and adding to the arts and culture. Of course latterly they are making a global impact too – with the new campuses in Ningbo and Malaysia adding a student cohort of 8,500.

We still have some great stories to tell about Nottingham – but we mustn’t rest on our laurels. We have to keep pushing for the High Speed Two train and the widening of the A453. Our tram extension will be great news. The extensions of Broad Marsh and Victoria Centre will help too.

We have to keep these stories alive.

I was reminded of an old adage during the talks – it’s better to travel than to arrive. And this surely must be a moniker for us. Lets keep travelling… onwards and upwards!

SET conference – the lectures – part 1

Monday morning started early – 9am (7am UK time). It’s not ‘my’ time. Especially as Costa / Starbucks hasn’t caught on here. The coffee isn’t great…

The density of buildings is plain to see in Shanghai

I am at a conference with 350 people from 43 Countries. The day started with some keynote talks and a reminder about the importance of sustainable technologies. It was suggested that the top five issues facing the world in 2011 are – Energy, Water, Food, Environment and Poverty. In that order. Energy is going to become a major issue as our cities and communities grow.

The most interesting of the talks was by Prof. Peter Lund from Aalto University in Helsinki. He reminded us that whilst 50% of the population live in Cities now, by 2040 this will increase to 70%. Energy demand in Cities is currently 65% but by 2040 this climbs to 80%. This is a huge challenge to this who shape our cities. But the technical part of Peters talk was centred around the way in which the cities lose roof-space as they increase in density – losing the potential to have solar panels. The comparisons of places like Los Angeles with its urban sprawl and Shanghai with its sky-reaching towers is stark and quite logical. Places like Shanghai will rely on the outlying neighbourhoods – whereas LA can effectively produce its power locally.

It did demonstrate the downside to tall buildings and high density schemes…

There were other talks about materials used in buildings – one such talk was given by my friend at the University of Nottingham, Dr David Tetlow – he i researching ‘phase change materials’. These are clever material which alter their state when heated (or cooled) and improve a buildings thermal efficiency. I realised today that some of the work being done around us is really rather clever.

We had a formal dinner last night – held at the side of the pool – it was a spectacular setting – even if there was too much food!

PS – in case you were worried – we have overcome the language barrier – I have moved and can now see the sea!

SET Conference 2011

I can’t believe it is 12 months since I first went to Shanghai – a year ago I visited the City with Nottingham City Council and The University of Nottingham. I spent a fascinating few days with the University at a conference aimed at Sustainable Technologies. I also got to see the World Expo – which was fascinating.

One year on and we hit Istanbul. I have been invited – and this time I am speaking at the SET (Sustainable Energy Technologies) conference.

I have written a joint paper which addresses the question of whether green property attracts premium prices*. It’s not an easy question for various reasons. The paper is lengthy and can’t really be published in a blog post. You would fall asleep! I will though, after the conference ends, put it on its own ‘page’ on this site. I would welcome comments and observations. I don’t expect the findings to be popular!

I am in Istanbul this morning where the conference starts today and, assuming the technology works, I’ll do some updates on anything interesting I come across.

We also get a chance to see some of Istanbul after the conference ends – I am looking forward to this. I’m told that this is one of the most photogenic places in the World – so you may see some images… I’ll try to limit it to twenty images (which I guess will be as difficult as my attempts in Nottingham over the last few weeks – see here).

The one thing I won’t be doing is Turkish Delight – which ranks alongside Mushrooms as food of the devil in my book.

If it goes quiet, you will guess that I can’t work the Turkish wi-fi!

*PS – the answer to the question is no for commercial property and yes for residential… in Nottingham at least!