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What does 'Science City' mean?

By Professor Eric Thomas
Chair of Bristol Science City

During Science Week, we have been asking local scientists for their views on the subject and what they think makes it important. Professor Eric Thomas is the Vice-Chancellor of Bristol University and Chair of Science City Bristol.

Bristol was designated a UK's science city by the Government in 2005

As I sat down to write this, news arrived that the Bristol city-region, which we take to include Bath and Weston-super-Mare as well as Bristol, had been identified as an 'innovation hot spring' in a study by management consultancy McKinsey with the World Economic Forum.

According to the researchers, this means that our area is among the world's 'fast-growing hubs on track to become world players'.

This is not the first time the Bristol city-region has emerged as one of the notable drivers of the national economy.

To give one example, a 2008 study by The Work Foundation highlighted the area's dynamic, knowledge-based economy and singled Bristol out as 'the UK's most productive large city'.

The designation in 2005 of our city-region as one of the UK's six Science Cities was the Government's way of recognising such characteristics, achievements and advantages.

It constituted official acknowledgement that the area's powerful economic momentum is closely associated with research, innovation and enterprise.

In aerospace, silicon design, the creative industries and, more recently, environmental technology, this part

Science City is a dimension of the Bristol brand
Professor Eric Thomas

of the country is right at the forefront of what is happening in the UK and across the world.

The Science City designation was not just a badge, however. It also served as a catalyst, bringing together a range of partners from academia, business, the cultural sector and the public arena to focus afresh on how to support and stimulate science and innovation for sustainable economic and social benefit.

In an increasingly competitive world it is vital, especially at a time of economic turmoil, to nurture and promote that which is truly distinctive.

Science City is a dimension of the Bristol brand. It is woven into the city-region's narrative and it is a means of differentiating the Bristol offer and raising the area's visibility.

So what are the Science City partners actually doing? With resources provided primarily by the South West Regional Development Agency, we have embarked on three main strands of activity:

  • Building connections between the academic, business and public sectors and across different areas of interest linked to innovation
  • Promoting investment by reinforcing the identity of the Bristol city-region as a place where ideas and innovation thrive
  • Engaging with the public in order to raise levels of understanding, promote dialogue and nurture a more supportive environment for science, technology and innovation

All of the Science City partners are committed to ensuring that this city-region's strengths in knowledge-driven fields are celebrated and developed, with clear benefits for the people and the economy of the South West and the rest of the UK.

Eric Thomas is Vice-Chancellor of Bristol University as well as the chair of Bristol Science City.

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