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UKSPA Inspires

Science Park CEO, Robin Chave, and Operations Director, Stuart Perry, joined fellow members of the UK’s innovation community for the UK Science Park Association (UKSPA) Summer Conference at Birmingham City University’s STEAMhouse on 26 and 27 June.

The agenda featured speakers and in-depth discussions from across the UKSPA network and key stakeholders on the challenges, opportunities, and innovative ways the sector continues to engage, inspire, and grow. Key themes were driving thriving local innovation ecosystems, building reuse and retrofitting, sustainable buildings, and health and wellbeing.

“It was really good to hear how the conversation around sustainability in our sector is moving forward,” reflected Robin. “While we’re all on pathways to reduce our environmental impacts, a key message from this conference was quite simply not to forget about people when in the midst of grappling with detailed environmental concerns. With triple bottom line thinking firmly embedded now, it’s critical to consider the social and community aspects of carbon footprints in tandem with the built environment and its economic activity.

“Close knit innovation communities underpin a successful transition to a low carbon economy. Here in Southampton, we seek to bring our residents with us on our journey to net zero by fostering closer networks between company personnel through our SOSocial activities and SOConnect app, and by involving residents in decision making frameworks, for example on greener travel. And it’s working: it was delightful to see so many participating in our conservation area volunteer day this year, higher than ever before.”

Stuart added, “From a property perspective, reusing existing buildings can be a real challenge, given the extent that sustainable best practice has moved on since they were first constructed and the desire to factor in whole-life carbon, as well as embodied carbon in a given building.

“We’ve been working through these challenges here at Southampton Science Park as we refit and repurpose premises with the least impact possible during and after works. Revolutionising a disused area to create the Engineering Centre and refitting large proportions of Kenneth Dibben House and the Innovation Centre are prime examples of how we have achieved this recently. At the other end of the Park, Promega’s outstanding purpose-built head office is another case in point.

“Perhaps all of us working in the UK’s technology sector could go much further though. Robin and I were inspired by examples of adaptive reuse presented at the UKSPA conference, such as the conversion of old grain silos into an art museum in Cape Town. Really motivating stuff, and something the whole innovation community can aspire to when considering what a circular economy could look and feel like.”

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