Blog: 22 March 2018Break the silos? A MIPIM 2018 reflection

Jenni Montgomery

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Jenni Montgomery

Business Development Director

Reading office

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MIPIM week, if taken on wholeheartedly, is one of the most intense networking a property professional will ever face, and my #jenatmipim blog was meant to be a way of conveying this intensity. I appreciate however, that  year-on-year, it looks like we’re all just having a great big party in the sunshine. But the location is definitely what makes MIPIM a success. Attitudes are more positive and brains a little more open to ideas in a sunny climate, away from our desks and day-to-day demands.  The value of the head space MIPIM can offer us, to think differently and challenge ourselves – whether this is simply in speaking to more people at a networking drinks than we would normally or taking on a tricky development finance deal - should not be under-estimated.

MIPIM for me this year oozed with content once again. So many cities and countries with magnificent ideas and approaches to regeneration and development, everything from fantastical mechanical dragons to transport sight-seers (Calais) to new settlements in the sea (Monaco) were being exhibited alongside the latest in Artificial intelligence and tech that might enable us to bring these ideas to life.

Across the UK cities however, the focus was firmly on how we deliver more, better. A housing crisis is a great way to focus the mind, and the challenges are common across all our regions. Despite their watery disaster, the Manchester stand hosted some fascinating sessions, but the one featuring George Clarke (our very own celebrity architect) felt like a ‘brain opening’ moment for me. Joined by Tom Bloxham (hat adorned as expected), Deborah McClaughlin (Capita) and Nick Walkley of Homes England, George flatly pointed out the reality of our skills shortage and laggard adoption of technology in construction - ‘Why are we so conservative about the way we build homes? Romanesque even?’. But even more so the comment made by Nick, “we need rock and roll homes for the rock and roll generation – design smart homes for our ageing population, as well as all the millennials we keep fixating upon, and which enable us all to maintain our independence and quality of life.”

Having just completed a research paper into property wealth held by our next generation of older people (45-65yr olds), this resonates acutely with me. Through data analysis we have sought to demonstrate the huge diversity of need and desire in this market and marry this with what money is available (via ONS Wealth and Assets survey and Mosaic data). There is no one size fits all, and this market is far too large to be left only to the specialists.

To achieve this and a general uplift in housing delivery though, silos need to be broken. Creativity comes from thinking differently and having the odd disruptor around to shake things up is great. Applying motor manufacturing approaches to prefabricated housing processes, as trailed by George, is a great way to break silos and learn from another industry who is far more advanced in their automation. Talking to Josh from the Centric Lab, applying neuroscience to urban design or psychology to our workspaces, enables us to build in the adaptability and flexibility called for in both our MIPIM panel sessions. Encouraging creatives to collaborate in placemaking is another example. The Calais Dragon is a mind-blowing approach to moving people around and generating a spectacle that will deliver notoriety and perhaps transform Calais’ future.

Think radically and interesting things can happen and, as George noted, there is nothing stopping us from doing this. Maybe we simply need to challenge ourselves more often, to step out of our comfort zone and apply lateral thinking, around who can help us? As a practice who prides ourselves on our multi-disciplinary offer, for us this is about embracing inter-disciplinary. A melting pot of professionals feeding in to ideas and process is far more likely to come up with something different, and if we can do this externally too... maybe we can come up with our own fantastical dragon?

As for MIPIM, farewell for another year, and here’s to 2019!


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