Mipim 2015: Tech takes its toll on the property sector

 
Guy Grainger
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The property industry had to adapt quickly to changes in technology (Source: Corbis)
I was up early on the third day of Mipim to chair a panel of Sir Eddie Lister, chief of staff at the Greater London Authority; Sir Howard Bernstein, chief executive of Manchester City Council; and Bernstein's counterpart in Birmingham, Mark Rogers, all of whom made a powerful case for further devolution of power to City Leaders.
In the UK, 73% of budget decisions are made centrally, compared with just 18% in Germany. Each leader spoke about their requirement for more control over budget so they could allocate resources in the most effective way to attract further inward investment and grow our cities. A strong theme was the need to influence the skills gap in order to attract more businesses.
It's fitting that on the same day Google opened its first bricks-and-mortar shop in the UK, much of the debate at the conference revolved around technology and its influence on places, people and buildings.
The British Property Federation held an event with British Land boss Chris Grigg and Hamemrson chief executive David Atkins, debating how the property industry is responding to technology.
To outsiders, we are definitely lagging behind, but property investors have had to adapt quickly to changes in technology particularly in the retail and workplace sectors. We have yet to see that filter through to building materials, but ultimately buildings will be able to talk directly to customers through digital and other channels.
Finally, the French have been complaining that Mipim feels like an “undertakers' conference” because of the number of dark suits in Cannes. I put a request out on Twitter for our industry to style up and had a great response from Susan Freeman (Mishcon de Reya) and Tom Bloxam (Urban Splash) showing that formality is no longer an essential ingredient for property people.

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