In this blog post, a member of the Project Team describes a visit that Sir Mark Walport recently made to the North East.
'Geordies will live here!' was the response when we asked the question, 'who will be living in Newcastle in 2065?’
Sir Mark Walport, accompanied by the Future of Cities team and Corinne Swain (Lead Expert), recently travelled up to Newcastle, where we discussed the opportunities and challenges that Newcastle, Sunderland and Gateshead will face over the coming decades. Senior representatives from local businesses, councils, universities and community organisations all contributed to a stimulating set of discussions.
The idea that 'people who will live in Newcastle will be Geordies' is less of a truism than it might seem. You don't need to travel to the North East to know that it’s got a strong identity, and we repeatedly heard (and saw) that it’s a fantastic place to live.
On the other hand, there’s a large skills shortage, particularly around engineering and science. Employers told us that they often had to recruit from countries like Portugal, Spain and Russia, because they just couldn’t find the right people locally. We were also told that those who do move to the North East for work tend to love living there and never want to leave, while those young people that leave the area tend to return later in life.
So while residents of Newcastle, Sunderland and Gateshead are proud of the generally high quality of life they enjoy, we also heard that there needs to be more strong, profit-making companies based there. Resilient infrastructure – energy, waste, water and transport systems - are a key part to helping this happen.
We also visited Newcastle Science Central, an exciting development right in the heart of the city that is going to serve as a home to science research, business, leisure and local residents. This is a great example of a productive collaboration between the University and the City Council, who are jointly funding this project under the ‘Newcastle Science City’ banner.
Currently the site is still in the early stages of development. Eventually it will house a buzzing mix of residential, commercial and academic buildings, and will serve as a test bed for innovative ‘smart city’ technologies. It will have its own smart grid and developers have drilled a 2 km deep borehole in search of geothermal energy.
While Newcastle and the wider region face many challenges, they are also proving that they’ve got a lot to offer the rest of the UK and the wider world in terms of the technology that will run the cities of the future.