Shaping the Knowledge Sector for the Future

By Neil Grey

financial building with neoclassical columns
We live in an increasingly knowledge-based economy where intellectual capital will be the dominant source of our future wealth and welfare. The UK’s capacity for innovation, creativity and original thought will distinguish us from other economies, as it has done in the past. At the same time, the value and importance of creative thought is being highlighted by what is likely to be a seismic shift in the workplace towards replacing process-based jobs with machines. Underpinning this idea of a knowledge-based future is a broad infrastructure of unique professional and representative organisations promoting their own specialisms, maintaining high professional standards, promoting excellence, lobbying on key policy issues and acting as a public face of each discipline. This is the knowledge sector.

Many representative organisations have long and illustrious histories, notable – often noble – patrons, and wealthy endowments. Many have been at the forefront of life-changing advances in areas such as science and medicine. Many started out in buildings that reflected a Victorian or Edwardian idea of how the values and ethos of membership organisations should be expressed in brick, Portland stone and stained glass. These buildings spoke of history, tradition, probity, and the high professional standards to which members would be held account. Some have endured, others have been left behind as organisations recognise they need to be fit for the future in order to do what they do best, and that doing so is difficult in buildings built for yesterday’s world.

As guardians of unique sets of intellectual capital, the knowledge sector faces a complex range of challenges. Balancing the weight of history with the need to remain relevant and embrace everything that defines today’s fast moving world; creating facilities that meet the needs of members without investing in the under used or overly bespoke; occupying buildings that reconcile the desire to be open to the public - as well as to membership - but at same time providing efficient state of the art workspace for staff and leadership. And on top of all that, making it all work financially.

The agenda doesn’t stop there. Sustainability - which is often seen as the most visible measure of an organisation’s ethical integrity - needs to find expression as part of a broader demonstration of corporate ESG values. This manifests itself in a range of operational decisions about property occupation. Employee welfare and wellbeing are now important influences in the decisions we make about our choice of employment. And digital technology is changing how we work and interact socially, how we communicate, exchange and share information, and how the buildings we occupy can come to life, learn from us and adapt to suit our needs much more closely.

There’s probably never been a more challenging time for the knowledge sector, but equally it’s a time of huge opportunity. Harnessing all of the technology and expertise that makes today’s buildings flexible, responsive, efficient and versatile is the foundation of shaping all knowledge sector organisations for the future .

Learn how we helped the Royal College of Pathologists overcome many of these challenges.

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