How Bristol’s new enterprise cluster is bringing a new buzz to the city

University investment in the east of Bristol is creating new demand for work and urban living developments.

October 10, 2019

With a new enterprise campus opening in Bristol, businesses are moving into the city centre to be close to the talent it will produce.

The University of Bristol is investing £300 million in the campus at Temple Meads in the east of the city. It will feature a £100 million Bristol Digital Futures Institute, where academics, scientists, businesses, start-ups and others will work alongside each other to drive innovation, strengthening Bristol’s reputation as a tech centre in the process.

“Some of the big firms, like Dyson, are starting to say, ‘we need to be in town’ because they want to be close to the universities that are producing the talent they need,” says Simon Peacock, JLL UK’s lead director for the South and Wales region. “Many of Bristol’s top employers are saying if they can’t find space on the university’s new campus, then they want to be as close to this enterprise cluster as possible.”

Firms like energy company OVO have already moved in. Engine Shed and the planned Engine Shed 2, offer incubator space for start-ups. While, property developments like Axa’s Assembly, Royal London’s Distillery, CEG’s Aspire, and Cubex’s Halo, provide the kind of high-end office space in Bristol, which appeals to larger firms and their employees.

New city gateway

Infrastructure will be critical to ensure that the campus – and the wider newly redeveloped urban quarter at Temple Meads, a 25-year government-backed plan to drive growth in the city - is accessible to workers living in the surrounding areas.

Around 10 million passengers a year already pass through Bristol Temple Meads station, near the new campus, but the local authority predicts it will more than double by 2030. Plans to redevelop the station - Bristol’s main rail link – are underway.

“The station has never really been close enough to the centre, but as this area gets redeveloped the city will expand and link to the station. There’s a huge opportunity to create a real gateway to the city, build public spaces and bring forward more development that connects this area into other parts of the city,” says Peacock.

Traditionally, bus services linking Bristol’s suburban areas have been slow and infrequent, but the launch of MetroBus represents much-needed transport investment to make moving around the wider city easier. This will only increase the appeal of the city’s new urban quarter for businesses of all shapes and sizes.

Residential moves skywards

Innovative, fast-growing businesses also know their success depends on getting the right skilled workforce – and high-quality mixed-use developments that reflect the aspirations of modern urban living are key to attracting young professionals to parts of the city undergoing redevelopment.

Bristol has a compact centre, dominated by heritage buildings, not modern towers. But in Temple Meads, high-rise living is starting to gather pace as more students and young professionals look to be close to the action.

Bristol University’s enterprise campus is expected to open its doors to new students in 2022. There are plans to build three residential towers, up to 21-storeys high, to offer accommodation for 1,000 students and create a 24-hour student hub with gym, roof terraces, bars and cafes.

The local authority aims to create 11,000 new homes in the area by 2037 – including many in the area close to the station and new enterprise campus. A further mixed-use scheme in nearby Temple Island is under consideration which could potentially add another 500 homes along with retail, office space and a conference centre.

“I definitely think we will see more high-rise residential developments in the east of the city. Over the next ten years this area will change dramatically, and it will basically expand the city centre a couple of miles to the east,” adds Peacock.

“It’s fair to say this part of Bristol is on a transformational journey, much of which is being directly driven by the new enterprise campus.”

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