UCL East


UCL helps spearhead new SHIFT innovation district for London

10 January 2022

UCL is one of seven world-leading organisations with links to the Olympic Park joining together to create a new, inclusive innovation district called SHIFT, billed as ‘London’s living testbed’.

SHIFT logo (cream background)

SHIFT brings UCL, whose new UCL East campus opens at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in September, together with UAL’s London College of Fashion, Loughborough University in London, Here East, Lendlease, Plexal and the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) to focus on the challenges facing cities and their citizens.

The name SHIFT has been chosen to reflect the collective shift needed across society to accelerate a thriving, fair and resilient future for our cities.

Among the issues partners will be tackling collectively and exploring and testing to create solutions to are:

  • the climate emergency
  • health and wellbeing in cities
  • the movement of both people and goods in urban environments

SHIFT will launch officially in the Spring of 2022. The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park will act as a living testbed for the innovation district, with 560 acres of green spaces, waterways, sport and leisure facilities, all in the public realm and including homes and roads as well as a range of education, business and cultural spaces.

The SHIFT team will be capitalising on the Park as an ideal location to pilot initiatives, from zero carbon micro-mobility trials to urban farming, new recycled timber materials and so much more.

Professor Alan Thompson, UCL Pro-Provost (London), said:

“In what is the 10-year anniversary of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in London, I am delighted that UCL is becoming part of the new, inclusive innovation district, soon to be known as SHIFT, at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. In what will be the UK’s first living urban testbed of its kind, UCL is well placed to be part of such an exciting innovation in our new home in east London.

“As we edge closer to the opening of UCL East in September, SHIFT represents an opportunity for UCL and our partners on the Park to come together and respond to local challenges in East London and beyond.”

UCL East Director Professor Paola Lettieri FREng said:

“SHIFT is made up of a powerful collective of innovators from academia, business and the community who want to work together, and with others, to change our cities for the better. UCL researchers are already working in partnership in local communities as part of our long-running programme of engagement in east London ahead of our new campus opening. 

“We will continue to listen and respond to locally identified priorities that have the potential to scale, transfer and be catalysts for innovation in other cities too.”

Professor Michael Stewart, academic lead for innovation and enterprise at UCL East, said:

“This innovation district is a world first, combining as it does researchers, community groups, citizen scientists, innovative businesses, tech and creative start-ups with government and investors to work on specific missions to explore key challenges. Its location and relationship with the Olympic Park as a living testbed will supercharge levels of collaboration and creativity to benefit east London and the world at speed.”

SHIFT is committed to an approach based on good growth and sustainable outcomes by:

  • putting climate resilience, clean air and net zero at the heart of business plans
  • putting the public at the heart of innovation, so that research and development focuses on the needs of the local community as well as sustainable business
  • ensuring fair and good work practices and developing diverse talent pipelines to support emerging-sector opportunities and future jobs
  •  encouraging a creative culture that supports entrepreneurship, investment and innovation and values skills, diversity, inclusion and connectivity
  • maintaining a thriving, vibrant public place to attract individuals, families and communities to contribute, learn, work, live and enjoy.

SHIFT partners are keen to work with others committed to making tangible differences to the lives of people in east London and beyond. For more information, please see an update here or email hello@shiftlondon.co.uk.