Elevator Awards 2017

Business Now Features

 

Why Strong Ecosystem Could Help Local Economies Weather Covid-19 Storm

Why Strong Ecosystem  Could Help Local  Economies Weather  Covid-19  Storm

Professor Gary McEwan, Elevator CEO, reflects on the crisis and the NE’s future

There is no doubt the North East has suffered – and will continue to do so, due to the rising economic uncertainty the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic brings.

In April this year, Gary Gillespie, the Scottish Government’s chief economist, stated that Covid-19 had ‘now become an economic crisis’. Recovery, which was initially anticipated as a ‘V-shaped recovery’ – a sharp decline followed by a sharp incline – was moving to a ‘W-shaped recovery’, meaning an unavoidable second decline.

Yet, as we watch the world turn upside in a short space of time, our local authorities, philanthropists, business leaders and additional support organisations have come together for the more vulnerable in our business community – reinforcing the significance and vital role of a strong ecosystem.

Ecosystem is a term that many are familiar with. First coined in the 1930s by British botanist, Arthur Tansley, it was used to refer to a local ‘community of living organisms interacting with each other and their particular environment of air, water, mineral soil, and
other elements’.

In a business sense, it refers to a network of organisations who collaborate, share and create resources, and co-evolve. Essentially, in times of external disruption as we are experiencing now, they adapt together showing great resilience to support a strong rebirth of the local economy.

While some may argue that resilience is a broad concept, how it is applied to regional and local economic growth raises important questions about the direction of these economies in times of crisis.

In my opinion, Scotland is one of the most populated support ecosystems in Europe. It is rich in its variety and completeness of support. However, it does not always function particularly well and in this respect, Aberdeen – and Dundee for that matter, are unparalleled.

The root of our ecosystem’s success has been the collective endeavour between a wide variety of organisations such as Elevator, Business Gateway, the Oil & Gas Technology Centre, Scottish Enterprise, RGU, the University of Aberdeen, ONE and many more to deliver a broad and deep spectrum of support.

Over the past three months the North East’s ecosystem has worked to provide potential opportunities for SMEs and entrepreneurs. Business support has been tailored to allow our local businesses to focus not only on the here and now, but also to help provide the confidence for those within our economy to adopt a forward-thinking mindset to focus on life after the crisis.

At Elevator, we have collaborated with Michelin, Scottish Enterprise, the Scottish Government, Dundee City Council and specialist sector delivery partners to strengthen our accelerator offering, launching our Sustainable Mobility and Low Carbon Innovation Accelerator. Delivered from the world-class Michelin Scotland Innovation Parc, we are working to support Scotland’s net-zero carbon ambitions, collectively helping to lead the charge for Scotland’s sustainable mobility and low carbon energy sectors.

Covid-19 is the black swan event of the decade that has taken the world by storm. However, it will be exciting to witness how our ecosystem continues to pull together in supporting not only our start-ups and entrepreneurs, but also the birth of new
collaborative relationships.

While no-one knows exactly how our local economy will look post Covid-19, I am confident that the North East is in safe hands. We are a strong group of visionaries ready to rise to the challenge and create a bright future for our region.

Coronavirus Accelerates Shift to New Working Behaviours

Karen Pugh of Elevator looks at implications for commercial property

Amid warnings that some lockdown restrictions could stay in place into 2021, companies are grappling with the seismic shift and questioning just how our office-based environments will look in the near and distant future.

Karen Pugh, Elevator property director, breaks down the implications the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic might have on the commercial property market and why we could be seeing an accelerated shift towards new working behaviours:

“When isolation and social distancing measures were introduced, those who didn’t fall into the essential-worker category were forced to abandon daily commutes and exit offices en masse. While there is not a silver lining bright enough to entirely eclipse the worries business owners face as they prepare to open their doors to staff and clients, we are witnessing the birth of positive trends which come with our new ways of working.

Behavioural Change

“According to the Office for National Statistics, in 2019 only 5% of the UK’s active 32.6-million workforce considered their home as their main place of work, with 70% – 23.9 million – having zero experience of working from home.

“Overall trends have seen a slight but steady shift to homeworking in recent years but, now, Covid-19 has accelerated this shift. The rapid update of digital technology has allowed us to hold online meetings, catch-ups and even weekly coffee huddles. Through a massive redirection of effort and resources, many organisations moved overnight to adopt a remote
working environment.

“For many, successful homeworking practices have been adopted with welcomed benefits for individuals’ well-being and lifestyles. Although some may see this as the demise of company cultures, those with the right culture and drive to move with the times will emerge more powerful than ever before.

Demand for Solo and Socially Distant Space

“Even before the pandemic hit, the commercial property market was seeing an increased demand in co-working and flexible serviced offices. The uncertainty it brings could cause more companies to look for flexible space that can accommodate rapid changes to their needs.

“Companies will look for more agile ways of working to reduce the cost of office space. Additionally, as employers begin to take a more active role in ensuring that employees are adequately distanced, there will no longer be a desire for densification and open-plan models.

“Office locations will change too. Commuting to and the need for city centre space no longer seems important. While this will have a direct impact on local economies – with low numbers of workers affecting smaller businesses such as coffee shops and restaurants, as we start to open up this will also present opportunities in terms of delivery offerings and diversification for these smaller businesses to bring their products to the workers outwith the city centre.

Reopening Doors

“It’s not too early to be planning to reopen business doors for occupancy. However, landlords need to earn the respect, trust and loyalty of tenants, with companies needing to earn the same from employees.

“Experts have already suggested that a combination of short-term fixes aimed at boosting worker confidence will be key to seeing employees return safely to their desks. Modifications that put hygiene at the heart of the workplace are paramount.

“Companies must use this time proactively. Implementing hygiene and HSE measures will be vital before reaching the return to work stage – for example, introducing two-metre markers; one-way systems, if necessary; one-in, one-out agreements in all communal areas etc. Many employees and tenants will feel hypersensitive about our move into the new norm – protecting relationships, retaining tenancies and holding value
are paramount.

The Next Phase

“It is inevitable that change is coming. At Elevator, we have rethought our property offering for the provision of flexible, short-term space suitable for teams to safely work with social distancing in place.

“As doors start to open and demand shifts to less or more square footage; alternative or new locations; differing length of terms or fixed pricing, one thing is certain: the commercial property space is being reshaped by 2020’s climate change.”