Designing a Digital District
Analyzing innovation districts around the world to find the right strategy for a higher-ed-backed digital media district in Vancouver.
Great Northern Way Campus Ltd. is a complex organization with a large real estate planning opportunity in front of them. A trust formed through a public-private partnership between four universities in Vancouver, GNWT is leading a critical transformation: reimagining an underdeveloped landscape for the future at its innovative cross-institutional Centre for Digital Media. The goal is to build on the world-class digital technologies economy in Vancouver, creating a destination district to catalyze innovation and entrepreneurship in the digital media space.
We collaborated with senior staff from GNW Campus Ltd. to produce a detailed memo analyzing the “innovation district" model of urban transformation as a potential approach for the Digital Media District. It digs into ways in which the Centre for Digital Media district vision, structure, theme, partnerships, and community can continue to build a thriving creative economy, leveraging Vancouver’s strengths in digital media leadership, and helping Vancouver position its digital media excellence for the world.
Here’s an excerpt from the document, discussing what an innovation district is and the types of impact these initiatives can make.
“ Innovation Districts:
Our Centre for Digital Media district is an example of an innovation district, a geographic region that fosters innovation by clustering together leading thinkers and institutions with specialized resources and amenities. These dense urban hubs are intentionally designed zones of experimentation that build connected communities and spur economic growth.
Innovation districts have proliferated in cities around the world because they have the ability to breathe life back into unloved and under-utilized spaces, and to spark economic growth through job creation, business development, and talent acquisition and retention. Through examination of other innovation district strategies around the world, we can find strategies and examples that will advance our Centre for Digital Media district strategy, and build a foundation for long term impact, effective governance, and continued growth.
Goals of an innovation district
Innovation districts have been designed to achieve many different types of goals depending on local context — here are some examples of goals that are most relevant to our destination.
ENCOURAGE NEW IDEAS:
Innovation districts create a culture around experimentation, making space for new ideas that have the power to transform industries.
CONNECT ACADEMIA & INDUSTRY:
These strategies can unlock new collaboration opportunities between research and the real world, leading to new companies and products.
Innovation districts can provide a foundation for sustainable, inclusive economies through new economic and educational opportunities.
Empty parking lots, former industrial zones, underperforming technology parks — these types of places have been brought back to life by innovation district strategies.
STRENGTHEN KEY SECTORS:
An innovation district can deepen the impact and accelerate the growth of key economic sectors, while creating a foundation upon which new sectors can build.
Revitalized neighborhoods jumpstart both business and real estate investment, creating companies, jobs and value for a range of stakeholder types.