Ten years on, has Here East delivered on the Olympic promise?
It’s been more than a decade since the Olympics turned Stratford into London’s most talked about new destination.
One project – Here East – now sits on the site of the former media centre in Stratford. So it’s high time to ask the likable Here East boss Gavin Poole whether the project has lived up to the promise of a new tech hub in east London.
Ten years on – has Here East achieved the vision it set out to deliver?
Ten years ago we won the bid to transform the former international press and broadcast centre used during the London Olympic games, a vast and significant piece of infrastructure, into a space for organisations and businesses set to define the future.
Our ambition was to spark an economic and cultural regeneration in East London – an area which has been underserved for over a century – and create a vibrant community which generated employment for thousands of people and contributed to the well-being of the local boroughs, London and the UK as a whole.
Ten years on, Here East is now a thriving campus for technology and creative businesses to collaborate, innovate and grow, with over 5,400 people – 3,800 who work for businesses on site and 1,600 who study – regularly based on campus. We have an exciting mix of businesses on our site, including Fiit.tv, Sports Interactive, Ford Drive and Studio Wayne McGregor, not to mention a number of globally recognised academic institutions. And our own innovation centre and consultancy, Plexal.
Most importantly, we have brought the local community on this journey with us, generating local jobs and powering local supply chains through the businesses that operate on our campus. We put a real emphasis on the local young talent who want to enter new and exciting industries, and inspiring the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs has been a core driver for all of us at Here East.
It’s a world-class cluster creating jobs and economic growth in London
East London is a growing esports hub. How has Here East helped achieve this, and what does it mean for the local economy?
Powering growth sectors is an integral part of the Here East ethos and we want to send a clear message that London has the talent, venues and expertise to become a global capital for esports.
The nature of the Here East campus, which brings together creative businesses of all shapes and sizes – from big established brands, companies on their scaling journeys to entrepreneurs with just a glimmer of an idea – under one roof, has always attracted exciting ideas and propositions.
Esports is one of those, and one we have taken great pride in helping to cultivate the growth of this sector in London – with our Olympic games heritage making us the perfect home for esports companies and academia to thrive.
This includes the likes of Staffordshire University London – which offered the UK’s first esports undergraduate course – and esports and gaming businesses such as Esports Engine, Sports Interactive and Bidstack.
Considering esports has previously generated £60m in revenue across the UK, creating a world-class esports cluster on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park will accelerate the growth of the industry in the UK and drive job creation and economic growth in London.
The SHIFT innovation district recently launched in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. How is Here East collaborating with the other organisations on campus to ensure the future success of the park?
The launch of the innovation district – SHIFT – at Here East during London Tech Week saw us mark ten years of the Olympic legacy with a further commitment to driving job creation and economic regeneration in East London. We saw it as a natural progression from the innovation centre that we established to a broader area that embraced a wider network of participants.
With a mission to solve some of the pressing issues of 21st century city living, it will drive inclusive innovation in climate adaptation and resilience, health and wellbeing and advanced mobility solutions.
Most importantly – SHIFT will focus on inclusive innovation projects that include local communities and citizens in their design, testing and delivery.
Local people from Newham, Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest will benefit from the training and skills programmes and job opportunities.
What have you done to ensure local East London people have been positively involved in creating the Olympic Park’s legacy?
Local jobs, local opportunity, local supply chains – and ultimately, local transformation, have been the key drivers for us every day since we first opened our doors.
Our recent research with Oxford Economics proved that we deliver good jobs, fair pay and accessible opportunities. The average pay at Here East is more than £5,000 above the London average, and we have delivered a gross value add to the UK economy of £700 million.
The data also showed our impact on local communities and surrounding boroughs, revealing that a significant proportion (15%) of Here East’s UK based procurement is retained within the local area, creating jobs – nearly a quarter of Here East’s employees live locally – and powering local supply chains.
As well as boosting the local economy, we have also made sure to integrate with it. This is best illustrated by our scholarship programme, which is open to students currently residing in Hackney, Newham, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest. It ensures that local people are able to reap the many benefits offered by the world leading education institutions, businesses and individuals that call Here East home via fully funded degree programmes.
You have a range of tenants on the campus, from education institutions to future-facing companies in the esports, creative and tech space. How do all the organisations come to together on campus, and what have they achieved through collaborating with each other?
No one has a monopoly over great ideas. A passion for collaboration is a core component of the Here East offer and one which unites all the divergent businesses who are based on campus.
And we know that collaboration has knock on effects for productivity, and ultimately growth – two buzz words on everyone’s minds at the moment. This is not the case at Here East and collaboration has resulted in tangible outputs. Organisations based at the Here East have reported positive outcomes for productivity, with the collaborative environment cited as a major boost to their ability to grow their employee base, increase their revenue and expand their offering.
This is backed up by the data we commissioned from Oxford Economics survey data, which spotlighted how over three quarters of respondents reported that the size of their workforce had expanded since being based at the innovation campus – with over half reporting that they had increased employment due to collaboration on campus.
Almost all (99%) of the tenants surveyed by Oxford Economics had collaborated with another business on the Here East campus, leading to improved knowledge sharing and the upskilling of employees. This shows how powerful collaboration can be.
The collaborative environment is a major boost
What’s next for Here East? What would you like to achieve in the next ten years?
The last ten years has seen Here East cement its position as a leading innovation campus for the tech and creative industries, a space for businesses to collaborate and grow, and a place for the best and brightest new growth sectors to flourish.
Looking to the future, we are continually thinking about how we can continue to attract and foster the best and brightest high growth sectors to our campus, fostering businesses that will deliver for not only East London, but the city and the country as a whole.
We have seen this work with esports and gaming, and cybersecurity before them. Now, our eye is on the future of advancing technology, visual effects and, more recently, the impact of the metaverse and how the third web era could help shape society.
As told to Michiel Willems