It’s a funny old do, this “tech hub” thing in Leeds. Just when you think you know what it is and where it’s based, another one pops up and gets you confused again.
First I thought the tech hub was at Allied London’s vibrant waterside destination, Leeds Dock.
But I was wrong.
Then, in March 2015, I thought it was going to be at the old police station at Brotherton House. That was only because George Osborne had just announced that not-for-profit Future Labs was being given £3.7m by central government to turn the building into a six-floor entrepreneurial tech hub.
This morning it turns out that the city’s new tech hub is going to be housed at John Poulson’s old City House above the station, a building that’s been substantially revamped and given the more vibrant name of Platform.
An announcement today says that developers Bruntwood (total assets approaching £1bn) are to get £2m from the council as capital to develop the hub, which will take up 28% of the building’s total floorspace of 117,000 sq ft.
No mention of Future Labs. No mention of Brotherton House, which was still languishing in the doldrums last time I looked.
Did Osborne get it wrong?
Something has obviously gone on, but what?
My guess is that back in 2015 the council were miffed with Osborne’s announcement (they greeted it with stony silence as far as I remember). Who was he to say where the Leeds Tech Hub should go, and who should run it?
Somehow, I’m guessing, the council got the £3.7m government cash (that was destined for Future Labs) turned over to it so it could decide.
So they set up a fund with the money, invited bids and, hey presto, today’s lucky winner of the biggest share – decided by a panel of experts and endorsed by the council’s Director of City Development – is Bruntwood (total assets approaching £1bn).
Did Future Labs bid? They must have done.
Nothing wrong with serious real estate players jumping on the tech bandwagon. It’s business.
And you can sort of get the council’s point when it insists that, as there’s no revenue funding attached, “the sustainability of projects without additional funding was the highest weighted criterion in the scoring process”.
But … but …
It’s just that if I were a member of the Leeds tech community I think I’d be going “whaaaat?!”
Reaction so far has been muted (there’s still £1m of the fund that hasn’t been allocated, so keep your heads down, guys).
My guess is that there’s more to all of this than meets the eye.
Anyone in the Leeds tech community out there? What do you think?