MD Barry Jessup on growing and nurturing ecosystems

We have known for a long time that our role as an impactful mixed-use developer is much more than just bricks & mortar, more than good design and responsible construction. Our role is to create or enhance the sense of place, and to ensure that we positively impact on peoples lives.

Placemaking is one of those concepts that everybody agrees with, which most people inherently understand, but that is sometimes difficult to put into words or to define.

In residential and leisure, we focus on ‘curation’ as a key component of making a space successful long-term. This can take many forms but ultimately it comes down to connecting peoples and opportunities together and then allowing them to grow organically.

In life sciences we focus on creating ecosystems; networks of complementary businesses and services that allow the individuals, enterprises and location to be greater than the sum of its parts.

It is our responsibility to enable businesses to focus on themselves by ensuring that we are providing the broader tools to allow them to flourish, to allow them to attract and retain talent, and to drive growth. Providing the right physical development is clearly important, but so is the blend of uses and occupiers that you encourage into the environment.

We are seeing the rapid growth of the ‘hotelification’ of offices, treating the provision of employment space as a service rather than a legal transaction. We are now building sustainability management and social value creation into our asset management as well as development services to occupiers.

I have always said that for a developer, the ability to fast-track organic growth (almost an oxymoron) is both the biggest challenge, and the most critical success factor.

Socius has always had a focus on embedding our developments into the broader community, not only to enable as much social impact as possible, but also to create opportunities for our occupiers to work with and benefit from the talent and passion of the local community. In urban locations, there is often already a rich existing ecosystem in place, but so many developers turn their backs on them. It is a wasted opportunity.

We are also often bringing together businesses who share similar values and ambitions, but have not worked together previously. Our job is to make their potential future collaboration as simple as possible, to create ‘collision points’; to remove transaction friction.

Whether we are helping to create network effects for commercial and economic reasons, or with a social value objective, it takes a lot of time, work and dedication. Until now most of these benefits could be described as ‘invisible labour’; critically important but very hard to define and measure.

We are currently working on a really smart network mapping tool which will allow us to better understand the ecosystems which we are helping to create, to highlight success stories, and to identify areas which require more focus. I think the potential of this tool is enormous, and I am very excited about its future application.

In the future, we won’t only have accreditations and objective assessments of the buildings that we are delivering; we will be able to assess the success of the ecosystems that we are helping to enable and grow.

Photo by Julia Koblitz on Unsplash