Meet the young Londoners with fresh ideas to innovate the city

Amy Leppanen
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The London Lumiere
Only new ideas and fresh thinking can tackle today’s challenges (Source: Getty)

London is a hotbed of innovation and ideas.

The city has a long history of attracting the best and brightest to work in the capital, and for a generation of young people, London is a powerful magnet.

But the capital is facing some critical challenges which threaten to undermine its success. London’s economy is undergoing rapid change with profound implications for jobs and skills, air quality is some of the worst in Europe, while the housing crisis is driving inequality across the city.

Read more: Digital London: How we can remain a capital of innovation

Only new ideas and fresh thinking can tackle these challenges. Young people are drivers of innovation. They question conventional thinking and bring a new voice to the debate. Thankfully, across the city, young Londoners working in sectors from tech to academia to housing are focusing on improving the city that we share.

Centre for London, the capital’s dedicated think tank, has been searching for London’s next leaders through its #LeadLDN campaign. The campaign champions the contributions that young Londoners are making and gives them the opportunity to influence the debate about the city’s future.

Here we highlight three of the best #LeadLDN nominees.

First, there’s our digital pioneer. Technology is already changing the nature of the city so providing London’s young people with vital digital skills will help the capital adapt to future change.

Catherine Knivett is the principal policy officer for digital skills and leads the mayor of London’s £7m Digital Talent Programme. The aim is to benefit 1,500 young people aged 16-24 with industry-designed training, especially aimed at underrepresented groups such as women and Londoners from black, Asian, and ethnic minority backgrounds.

Through the programme, over 400 teachers and trainers will gain up to date skills, and many more young people will receive better careers advice and signposting to training and job opportunities. Knivett has also created a Digital Pioneers network of young people under 30, who work in digital, technical and creative fields, to be advocates and inspire the next generation to see digital training and careers in a different light.

Next up, our skills leader. Londoners of all ages need the skills to prosper in a fast-changing economy. And Jacqueline Fernandez is on a mission to equip women and young girls in London with the skills they need to thrive.

Fernandez is the chief executive and founder of What You Do Matters, a non-profit company based in East London that encourages young women to get involved with community voluntary work, while also promoting self-confidence and strong interpersonal skills.

Through building positive relationships and promoting networking opportunities, she empowers young women in her community of Newham and other London boroughs.

Finally, there’s the woman planning for our city’s future. With London’s population set to continue to rise, how can city leadership and strategic urban planning have a positive impact on the future of our capital?

Dr Ellie Cosgrave is a leading lecturer and researcher in urban innovation at University College London. She has published new thinking on the future of global cities, on gender, smart cities, engineering, infrastructure and inclusion. Her work explores transformative approaches to policy making and governance of cities, and is helping to unlock vital debate on the future of the urban realm.

Cosgrave is also a director of Science Grrl, with a passion for broadening access to engineering as the cornerstone to solving some of the world’s greatest challenges.

The top nominees from this year’s #LeadLDN campaign will join leaders and decision makers from across the city at The London Conference 2017. These are the people who will help us create a more innovative, inclusive, and efficient London.

Read more about #LeadLDN at

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