The Future of Knowledge: Building Back Together

6–8 July 2021

In the heart of London, tucked into a one-mile radius around King’s Cross, the knowledge economy has been booming. Until the COVID-19 pandemic put the world into an uneasy stasis, what has come to be known as the Knowledge Quarter – bursting with world-leading universities, research institutions, arts establishments, museums, galleries, tech giants and dynamic start-ups – was a living hub of knowledge industries, with the namesake organisation working tirelessly to facilitate communion and to catalyse interaction. But as we return to a new normal, it has become clear that there is more to this gilded hub, that this is not just a place of work, but a place where people live. We must ask whether we have done enough for the communities who have suffered through the COVID age just a stone’s throw from our grand and well-kept buildings. Have we failed our closest neighbours, and in this unprecedented time, is there more that we can do?

It has been widely believed that the wealth and growth generated in gleaming towers would eventually ‘trickle down’ to those at the lower end of the socio-economic ladder. That model of the economy was a myth, and the result is inequality. Rampant unemployment, soaring child poverty, and bitter social isolation are some of the economic and social characteristics associated with the very same area proudly described as an intellectual boom town just a paragraph ago.

The pandemic has highlighted the true cost of our short-sightedness. What is urgently needed is an inclusive form of growth, identifying development policies that will positively impact the world outside our laboratories and campuses. The questions we look to answer are: how can the Knowledge Quarter share its resources for the widest possible benefit? How can we invite local communities to participate in the activities of an innovation district, to form a new intellectual and social commons?

Two long years since the KQ organisations last came together, this summer’s three-day conference will face these vital questions head on. We will hear from experts who have championed inclusive economies, quality employment, local entrepreneurship, education support, participatory governance, and more. We will listen to partner organisations grappling with these themes and hear the voices of the local residents whose lives these policies will impact. We will discuss how the KQ as a whole (partner organisations and neighbouring communities alike) can recover from the pandemic together: to work together, to grow together, and to learn together, for the benefit of all.

Full programme and speakers information is avaliable online at