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Blackwall: How UWS’s London campus at Republic wants to tap into the community

University Of The West Of Scotland looks to connect with local businesses and organisations

The University Of The West Of Scotland's London campus is located at Republic in Blackwall
The University Of The West Of Scotland’s London Campus is located at Republic in Blackwall

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“This area is lively – a part of the regeneration of London – it’s fun and it’s got far more going on than other parts of the capital so I’m really glad we came here,” said Lucie Pollard, director of the University Of The West Of Scotland’s London Campus.

UWS’s southern base arrived at Republic in Blackwall just as the pandemic was beginning and is finally getting a chance to settle into its new home, following the various lockdowns.

“Where we were before, near London Bridge, students said that they didn’t like being in an office block,” said Lucie.

“But the buildings here don’t feel like that at all and having the other universities here with us makes it a really exciting place – almost a multi-versity.”

UWS’s roots date back more than 100 years to its foundation in Paisley and the university is well-known in Scotland, recently being named Higher Education Institution Of The Year for 2022 at The Herald Higher Education Awards.

“That’s the Oscars of Scottish higher education, so it’s very important for us institutionally,” said Lucie.

“We’re a really innovative organisation, which goes back to our roots in terms of supporting the local community and businesses – creating degrees that allow students to take up employment easily and also welcoming more mature students than any other university.

“Creating a London campus in 2015 was all about bringing that space we occupy in Scotland to the capital, growing our international reputation and providing a place for students from overseas who want to study here.

“We have people from around 60 different countries studying at this campus and they have so much to offer. It’s our aim to be more community-facing, to work with local authorities and businesses based here.

“I believe that will be of great benefit, because our students have so much knowledge, so many skills and languages and an understanding of cultural nuances from their varied backgrounds. 

UWS London Campus director Lucie Pollard
UWS London Campus director Lucie Pollard

“That means they can be a real asset to the local community, whether that’s working with businesses or doing voluntary work here.

“I’m really keen for them to have work experience in different firms and we’d love to talk to organisations locally to create micro-placements.

“That could be two weeks or six weeks – it really depends on the project.

“We’re especially interested in talking to small and medium-size businesses who may want help with projects – it means our students will gain far more in terms of understanding the strategic work that companies do, than they will from a placement at a much larger firm.”

 UWS’s London campus offers a range of courses including undergraduate degrees in business and health studies, an extensive selection of business, education and administration-focused masters qualifications and, from April next year, PhD programmes.

“We also offer courses with Continuing Professional Development (CDP) accreditation, especially in AI and data analytics because those are areas where people need to upskill,” said Lucie, who spent nearly two decades working in various roles at the University Of Greenwich, before making the move to UWS in 2017.

“There are a lot of people in business who have risen over the years and suddenly realise there’s a whole load of tech that they have limited understanding of and need to find out about fast.

“They can do that very quickly by plugging into CPD. We’ve also identified the areas of sustainability, equality and diversity, where there’s a similar need.

“Those courses could be delivered digitally, in person or a mixture of the two.

“Our university strategy up to 2025 was launched in January 2020, just before the pandemic, and it was all about hybrid teaching.

“Covid became a real catalyst for us – we’re making the best use of technology.

“We’ve invested in new digital platforms for the students and we’ve got a huge digital transformation project that’s ongoing.

The university has space in Republic's Import and Export buildings
The university has space in Republic’s Import and Export buildings

“We find students are very discerning about what they want on campus.

“We don’t want everything to be online because we’re not the Open University. 

“Our students want some things online so they can access them wherever they are, but they also want things on campus that are really authentic and immersive.

“After all, you don’t want to spend money coming in and then just listen to someone reading out a Powerpoint slide. It’s also vital to build a network of contacts who will be with you for a very long time.

“On an operations level, moving to an institution where the other campuses are 400 miles away was an interesting challenge.

“I’m not sure why we didn’t use Teams before Covid, but having that now has been really refreshing – it’s so easy to jump on a call and be in a virtual meeting.

“The pandemic has made tech more responsive.”

Responding to people’s needs is very much the guiding principle at UWS, as its staff work to provide the best experience possible for those taking its courses.

“When I was at Greenwich, I’d been an academic and I’d worked in the more professional service areas,” said Lucie.

“I do finance, I do HR and I understand students’ needs.

“So to work at UWS where students always come first is really rewarding. We really do feel passionately that we are here for those who are taking our courses.

Courses at UWS are delivered via hybrid teaching – a mix of face-to-face sessions and online
Courses at UWS are delivered via hybrid teaching – a mix of face-to-face sessions and online

“My daughter watches Gordon Ramsay – although I don’t know why – and he always makes it clear that the most important person is the customer. We have the same philosophy here.

“That makes a real difference to your mindset – you spend your time thinking that the student is more important than the vice-chancellor – and it really does work.

“Communication is really important too, so we make sure that we’re really clear to students that we know what it means for them to come here – the challenges involved in relocating to a different country – and making sure it’s a welcoming space.

“We recently held our graduation ceremony and that’s always great because you get to see the end result – the students come up and tell you about the great experiences they’ve had.

“UWS is somewhere they get to meet people from lots of different backgrounds, where they get supported by the staff in London, but can also tap into the research that’s happening in Scotland.

“It’s a journey – they’ve typically come over from another country and that can be daunting. Then they find support among new friends and almost become part of a new family.

“We hope during their time with us that they get the knowledge, skills and expertise they need to go out and make a huge impact in the societies they want to work in.

“I’m old and spent years in one institution before moving to another.

“Now people move jobs every year or every three years, and they need to be world-ready to work in this country, the US, Australia or their countries of origin.

“Having those skills is really important.”

With lockdowns and Covid restrictions in the past, UWS is bedding into life at Republic and seeking to forge new links with local businesses.

“One of the ways we can do that is though our CPD programme,” said Sadiq Islam, business manager for the university’s London Campus.

“We’re keen for our name to be known as widely as possible and, by building relationships through our CPD courses, we’re able to create partnerships for student placements by engaging with those companies.”

He said UWS was currently offering a subsidised Help To Grow Management Course – a 12-week programme aimed at senior leaders in small and medium-sized businesses to help their organisations thrive and grow.

The Government covers 90% of the cost of the course which involves 50 hours of training and one-to-one mentoring, delivered on a flexible basis, both online and face-to-face.

Firms, which must have been operating for more than a year and have five or more employees, then pay a fee of £750.

The university has students from around 60 different countries
The university has students from around 60 different countries

Read more: How Bureau is offering creative workspace in Greenwich

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Blackwall: How The Greenhouse offers space and community to support startups

Joint project by The Trampery, Trilogy Real Estate and UWS is based at Republic in east London

Ahmet Emin Hondor wants to welcome more businesses to The Greenhous
Ahmet Emin Hondor wants to welcome more businesses to The Greenhouse- image Matt Grayson

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Nurturing young plants requires warmth, water and good quality soil to help them put down roots. That’s why so many seedlings thrive under glass in gardens up and down the country.

The Greenhouse At Republic in some senses does the same job, but it’s startup businesses being propagated rather than seedlings.

Located on the ground floor of the Export Building, the facility is a joint project between Trilogy Real Estate – the developer behind the whole Republic regeneration project – the University Of The West Of Scotland (UWS), which has a campus on-site and The Trampery.

The latter, which describes itself as “a purpose-led enterprise dedicated to making business a positive force in society”, operates  the facility, providing workspace for early-stage entrepreneurs and startups.

The Greenhouse aims to support local residents, Republic tenants, graduates of UWS and businesses seeking to have a beneficial impact on the world around them.

“Our main mission is to provide the workspaces as well as access to our network,” said Ahmet Emin Hondor, partnerships manager at The Trampery, who looks after the facility.

“We really value that connection because it creates a big synergy between different communities.

“Quite often we have very like-minded people, who care about the environment and social issues.

“They have purposes in their businesses and these have a social impact. 

“The more we have this, the more businesses like this come to us. That’s really valuable because people collaborate with each other.

“For example, if I have a charity in need of a creative service, we open that network to them and help them collaborate. 

“We also run programmes throughout the year to give the organisations based here what they need, and to introduce them to professionals who can support them.

“We have quite a range based here now – we have a lot of early stage entrepreneurs, but the industries are quite different.

“We have charities, a mental health app, a couple of marketing agencies, an organisation that’s aiming to save our soil, a couple of cosmetic brands who decided to create their own products because they couldn’t find what they were looking for in the market and a South African street food company.”

The Greenhouse At Republic offers flexible workspace
The Greenhouse At Republic offers flexible workspace – image Matt Grayson

Originally from Istanbul, Ahmet himself arrived at The Trampery via a career that’s seen him work in fashion, marketing, communications, consultancy and events.

“I decided I wanted to do something that would bring all those things together and that’s why I’m here,” he said.

“The Trampery is a very diverse organisation and it ticked a lot of boxes for me – I wanted to be a part of it. 

“Since I’ve joined I’m even happier, because it’s an organisation that really cares about people and giving back – that’s one of its priorities at all times.”

Those interested in taking up space at The Greenhouse fill out an enquiry form with The Trampery, which also runs workspaces at multiple locations including Old Street, Poplar and Hackney Wick. 

“We then follow up with applicants and find out all about their needs because they may be more relevant to a specific operation,” said Ahmet.

“If The Greenhouse is the right place for them, for example, then we invite them over here to give them a tour so they can grasp what we’re doing and understand the campus – we offer a lot of things here, it’s not just about the space itself.

“That also gives us an opportunity to have a chat with them and, quite often, after that, they become members.

“There are several different ways to join, of course, and we sometimes have people relocate from different sites.

“We also run incubator projects with UWS for students who are building their own businesses.

The facility includes a kitchen and breakout spaces
The facility includes a kitchen and breakout spaces – image Matt Grayson

“We have a few at The Greenhouse who are about to finish their studies and who are already starting on their business ideas.

“It’s very important to us that we can help these people connect to other businesses in our network who can help them thrive – lots of entrepreneurs will encounter the same problems and they can get help from each other in how to overcome them.

“People can share their experiences, their networks and their supply chains and benefit from each other’s deals where individuals might be lacking know-how.

“The differentiating factor at The Greenhouse compared to our other sites is the partnership with UWS and Trilogy, which brings with it a bigger network.

“When people join, however, they get access to our network and events across all of our sites including our second location at Republic.”

The Greenhouse is especially keen to hear from locally based businesses and entrepreneurs in Blackwall, Poplar and the surrounding areas.

A range of membership options are available including hot desk, fixed desk and Trampery Flex.

Suitable for businesses in the creative, retail, marketing, fashion, finance and social impact sectors, facilities include high speed internet, a members lounge, break-out areas, a library and a quiet space as well as complimentary bike hire, showers, changing facilities and unlimited tea and coffee.

Prices start at £110+VAT for Monday and Friday access. Fixed desks are £250+VAT.

Anne-Marie Payne of Chair Disco Collective
Anne-Marie Payne of Chair Disco Collective – image Matt Grayson

CASE STUDY: CHAIR DISCO COLLECTIVE

On Fridays we host an over-50s chair rave at a beautiful church in Hackney Wick with lots of people in wheelchairs and the Outward Housing Hub Club which bring neuro-diverse people who may be on the autism spectrum,” said Chair Disco Collective founder Anne-Marie Payne.

“Right now we’re opening with a Lizzo medley including her latest track About Damn Time.”

The Poplar resident created her exercise class concept back in 2017 and has since moved to running the operation as a collective with an emphasis on social engagement  and community building.

Having won a competition, the organisation is now based 15 minutes from her home at The Greenhouse as it continues to develop its chair-based exercise activities.

“I realised what was needed was new music,” said Anne-Marie. “So I put it to the test and that’s how we built this new way of exercising with a new spirit.

We put in bids for funding so we’re able to offer sessions free to inactive members of the community. 

“I was looking for a workspace because, after the pandemic, my main hustle shut down its office.

As a single mum, working from home in a tower block with no garden and not enough bedrooms, was hell on Earth.

“I was lucky enough to win a competition for space here and I love the vibe. I think of it as working-near-home because it’s close enough to pop back in an emergency.

“Right now we’re figuring out what our ambition is for the collective and whether we can run it as a social enterprise so paid-for sessions pay for free classes for those who need it.

“You’d be absolutely amazed how much people can benefit.

You can pretty much move all your joints from a chair and, when you’re really raving you can really boost your heart rate.

Read more: How Crossrail is transformative for Excel and London

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Blackwall: How Republic is placing future talent at the heart of its growing campus

Trilogy Real Estate head of asset management Laurence Jones on the project’s present and future

Some of the extensive public space at Republic
Some of the extensive public space at Republic

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“We’d always had the talent of the future at the forefront of our minds while the whole complex was being designed,” said Laurence Jones. “To see that finally coming to fruition is hugely gratifying.”

The head of asset management at Trilogy Real Estate is in a buoyant but humble mood as we chat about the present and the future.

His employer, in partnership with LaSalle Investment Management, is at the helm of Republic London, a project to regenerate four unloved and unlovely buildings around Clove Crescent near East India DLR, after acquiring them in 2015.

The project is entering its sixth year and appears in rude health with 2021 seeing 120,000sq ft let to organisations – around 30% of the Docklands market over the last 12 months.

While Trilogy’s strategy has been to deliberately target a diverse range of tenants, an emerging trend as a place ideal for education has emerged.

The University Of The West Of Scotland (UWS) and Anglia Ruskin University have both increased the size of their operations on-site, together occupying more than 125,000sq ft across the scheme’s Import and Export buildings.

York St John University is also relocating to Republic in a move to expand and consolidate its existing courses and apprenticeships while allowing it to launch seven new postgrad programmes and professional education courses at a 25,000sq ft facility.

Trilogy’s Laurence Jones – image Matt Grayson

“We’ve seen the emergence of higher education as a key sector and that really underpins the ethos of what we want to be – an innovation hub,” said Laurence.

“We want universities sat next to business, sat next to real, meaningful community engagement.

“When you have all those elements collaborating with each other, benefiting from that proximity, you get an environment that’s greater than the sum of its parts and huge opportunities.

“In terms of winning these expansions and clients, it’s been very helpful to work alongside the organisations already based here.

“People kick around this idea of landlords and tenants being partners but at Republic we really do mean that.

“We’re here from first viewings to agreeing terms and ensuring fit-outs are undertaken effectively because we want to work with operators and make sure they have the maximum chance of success.

“We’ve created a fantastic environment here but, crucially for the educators, it offers something more. You have business – the City and Canary Wharf – close by.

“The endgame for most of the graduates and postgraduates here is employment, so to be in a place that lends itself to getting direct work experience for their CVs is incredibly powerful.”

The Greenhouse at Republic
The Greenhouse at Republic – image Matt Grayson

Republic isn’t simply about providing big buildings for large organisations, however. Laurence and his team are determined to accommodate businesses ranging in size from a single entrepreneur to thousands.

He said: “In partnership with UWS and The Trampery we’ve created The Greenhouse which essentially provides incubator space.

“It has a real focus on offering a support network and a space for local businesses to make that leap from an idea at home to making it a reality.

“Equally, it gives a platform for some of the university students here to start trying out their entrepreneurial ideas.

“Once someone has a credible business with a track record, they’re going to want staff and their own front door.

“So, just before Christmas, we created five micro studios. They’re a very simple prospect – 500-to-1,000sq ft – an all inclusive rent for SMEs and startups to come and occupy space on a relatively flexible basis.

“It’s a short-form lease that a business can sign there and then on the day. One is already let to Your Parking Space and, as its business grows, we can accommodate the firm’s expansion.

“We see that journey for businesses as being absolutely crucial to our campus – that there’s an entry point for everyone.” 

Trilogy is also sharply focused on opening its campus up to the local community and visitors from further afield, with a range of places to eat, drink, exercise and even shop, framing its Wi-fi enabled water gardens. 

Open and trading are the likes of physiotherapy and fitness centre Myoset, exercise powerhouse F45, independent bakery and cafe Sweet Nothing Bakehouse, ice cream parlour Gelato A Casa and recently opened specialist whisky bar Black Rock.

“The local community is, for us, very important,” said Laurence. “We’ve always strived to ensure Republic isn’t just perceived as a business park.

“We created the public areas here because we want people to come and use them, to understand what’s here and I think our big objective for 2022 is to make certain there continues to be a huge amount of community engagement to de-mystify things.

“The early indications are the next 12 months will hopefully deliver some degree of normality and we’re super excited about people coming back.

“There will be experimentation for many organisations who will be asking what their working practices will look like and what their use of space will be.

“But the early indications are good and that’s fantastic news for the food and beverage businesses and the fitness companies we have here. There’s a lot of excitement.

The Export Building's full-height atrium
The Export Building’s full-height atrium

“We’re 94% let in the Import Building and 55% let in Export and we want to keep the leasing momentum going and finish the job that we started.”

Looking further forward, a planning application for the second phase of the project is currently under consideration.

Trilogy and LaSalle hope to build homes for rent, student accommodation, more office space and a data centre on-site.

“That will help us in our ambition to crack the night time economy here,” said Laurence.

“Part of that will come from having beds on campus for students and other residents, but equally by making sure there are more people coming here from the local area.

“We always knew we needed provision here outside traditional working hours because otherwise it could just be a 9am-5pm destination.

“We see this is as the next logical step, especially given the universities we have based here now.

“The student body at Republic is incredibly diverse – many are mature students and there are those from overseas.

“We are a centre of gravity for them and we want to be somewhere that they can call home.” 

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