COLLABORATION

Introducing Scotland’s ‘Silicon Valley on the Clyde’

SOURCE: Shutterstock
A new innovation campus will turn the regenerated Clyde Waterfront into Scotland's own 'Silicon Valley'.

The story of the river Clyde in Glasgow is one inextricably linked with the area’s shipbuilding past.

In the mid-18th to 19th centuries, the river corridor was a hub for international trade, used by tobacco lords and sugar merchants to transport their precious cargoes. To accommodate their vessels, the city’s best engineers devised ways to deepen the river bed, and Glasgow’s shipbuilding and heavy industries flourished as a result of it.

The city’s reliance on commerce along the Clyde even birthed the famous saying, “Glasgow made the Clyde, and the Clyde made Glasgow.” 

Today, the saying continues to ring true, only the Clyde corridor is no longer synonymous with shipbuilding. A massive urban regeneration effort has seen the area completely reinvented. Gone are the shipyards – only a few remain at Govan, Scotstoun and Greenock – while the last remnants of Clyde’s industrial past have become historical artifacts, preserved and displayed proudly at the Riverside Museum.

Bold and modern structures like the Glasgow Science Centre, Glasgow Tower, the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC) and the Clyde Arc and Tradeston Bridges have completely transformed the city skyline. The result of one of the biggest urban renewal projects ever undertaken in Scotland, the River Clyde is now an icon of the 21st century – a buzzing recreational, residential and business powerhouse. 

And very soon, a brand new multimillion-pound university investment will turn it into Scotland’s own Silicon Valley.

In an announcement, the University of Glasgow unveiled plans to build its new Clyde Waterfront Innovation Campus (CWIC) in the area, a multimillion-pound state-of-the-art research facility to encourage and facilitate industry engagement and innovation, and spur the local economy.

The campus will act as a center of excellence where academics work alongside industry experts to develop a range of new technologies, creating high-end jobs for the Govan district, and further contributing to the Clyde waterfront urban renewal process. 

Commenting on the project, Principal Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli said the CWIC would catalyse the growth and development of the Clyde and create “Scotland’s Silicon Valley”.

“The University of Glasgow’s plans for investment in Govan are an incredibly exciting new chapter for the university and the city – and can be as transformational for Govan and the Clyde Waterfront as our move to the West End from the city centre was in 1870,” he said.

“We know that the university only thrives when the city thrives – and that the city only meets its full potential when the university works closely with partners in industry and the public sector, translating our world-leading research into jobs and inclusive economic growth, and ensuring the benefits are felt by people across Glasgow,” he added.

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According to the university, the main pillars for the first stage of the development will be an enhanced James Watt Nanofabrication Centre (JWNC), and a Precision Medicine Living Laboratory.

The JWNC will focus on industries like nanofabrication for quantum technology and photonics, enabling the co-location of industrial R&D teams and academia with the support of state-of-the-art facilities. The plan has already received the support of 12 major industry partners and will also see the relocation of Europe’s leading clean room facility from the West End to Govan.

The Precision Medicine Living Laboratory, meanwhile, will strengthen Glasgow and Scotland’s existing position as the world leader in precision medicine, offering researchers a real-world clinical setting and a dedicated Health Innovation Hub that offers “grow on space”.

“Shipbuilding and heavy industry in Govan and on the Clyde Waterfront were the pillars of Glasgow’s industrial excellence in the 19th and 20th centuries.

“I have no doubt that the innovation agenda and industries like quantum technology, nanofabrication and precision medicine can be to the 21st century Glasgow economy, what shipbuilding was in the past,” Muscatelli said.

Clyde Waterfront Innovation Campus
The new campus is a collaborative space designed to facilitate academic and industry engagement. Source: University of Glasgow

“As a city, we can’t afford to look backwards to past glories – we have to reimagine Glasgow’s entrepreneurial legacy for the 21st Century. And the establishment of the Clyde Waterfront Innovation Campus could create Scotland’s Silicon Valley on the Clyde, and be a key step in ensuring our city retakes its place at the forefront of international innovation and industrial excellence.”

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So far the university has committed GBP28 million to the project, alongside GBP27.5 million from the Glasgow City Region City Deal. The university is reportedly bidding for a further GBP63m in funding.

Councillor Susan Aitken, Leader of Glasgow City Council and Chair of the Glasgow City Region City Deal Cabinet, said the new center was a welcome addition to all the investments being pumped into regenerating Govan and the Clyde waterfront. These activities, she said, were key to attracting and developing world-class innovation in the city.