The English post-industrial city of Nottingham has revitalized a decaying historic district under the brand name Creative Quarter. This is the concept of an “incubator without walls” that combines spaces and training tools< /a> for entrepreneurship in creative and digital industries, with residential mixed uses, independent retail, and the promotion of cultural activity.

Nottingham, located in the East Midlands, began the 2010s with a pressing problem of youth unemployment, stemming from the financial crisis. It was noted that, at the same time, there was a strong presence of university students in the region – one in eight inhabitants – and a growing concentration of companies specializing in knowledge-based industries – Digital Content, Low Carbon Clean Technology, Science of Life, etc. –.

Public-private initiative, in collaboration with education centers and local associations, launched the creative district project from 2013, with the aim of restructuring the city’s economy and creating new jobs. The district was created around the historical framework area known as Lace Market, where the lace industry that used to make the city famous was located, but whose spaces had been unoccupied since the mid-20th century. In addition to the existing vacant buildings, the nearby presence of Nottingham Trent University, with a specialist center for creative technologies, business incubator of life sciences BioCity, and the traditional market of Sneinton Market, were a determining factor.

Disused buildings and businesses in the district have been rehabilitated for start-ups, coworking spaces, and residential and mixed uses, and funding programs and training tools have been earmarked for startups. The dynamization of knowledge exchange and cultural events were also raised from the beginning as a transversal element of the plan.

However, the cultural life of the area, in addition to its human size and good transport links, are cited by startups have located there as reasons for choosing Nottingham over London. The district has not only given rise to startups with a strong technological nature, but also to support services (computer companies, communication agencies, video and photography studios, etc.), shops and workshops for local designers, or popups, as well as opportune events for networking.

Since its inception, the creative district is estimated to have fostered the creation of 1,000 jobs, ranking Nottingham as the second best city for entrepreneurship, according to Forbes. Looking ahead, Creative Quarter managers set out to expand the district model to the rest of the city, and focus on scaling existing startups.