Given the go-ahead in February earlier this year, plans to transform the media centres at London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park are taking shape, creating what is expected to become the UK’s leading creative digital hub, Here East.
iCity, the group tasked with the transformation, are re-developing the space which measures a total of 1.2m square feet and comprises of three buildings; the Olympic broadcast centre, a 950 seat auditorium, and the former press centre, as well as communal outdoor areas and terrace overlooking the canal.
Venture partner Infinity SDC, in its quest to expand and set apart its data centre offering, successfully bid for the use of the broadcast centre to house its newest addition. Bucking current location trends for remote settings, Infinity favoured the heart of a buzzing technology campus with the goal of driving the post-games legacy and regenerating the local community.
Set to go live in March 2016, the company claims that the Here East facility will be one of the largest data centres in Europe. A clear spot on the Hackney horizon, the centre will act as the nucleus of the new cluster, enveloped by co-located businesses and partners. BT Sport is already settled as a tenant, with a number of academic bodies joining later next year including, Loughborough University London and Hackney Community College.
Andrew Roughan, Infinity’s Commercial Director, highlighted the benefits of a multi-tenanted environment which enables the data centre to fully embrace the technology community which it serves.
“This is all about bringing together people and processes […] Our Here East customers will be able to take advantage of their proximity to IT […] moving between their workspace and the data centre as if it were their own,” said Roughan.
Roughan emphasised that the data centre would not be limited by this multi-tenanted model in terms of efficiency – explaining that the infrastructure, including cooling technologies and power supplies, will be designed with sustainability as a main priority.
The new data centre holds capacity for 6,500 racks, and covers approximately 280,000 square feet, equating to around 40 per cent of the total broadcast centre space. Other assets include 35MVA, a diverse fibre infrastructure, and a power usage effectiveness (PUE) level of c. 1.2.
“This facility will very much be a technology centre, rather than simply a traditional data centre for operational support […] We will be working closely with our partners to provide leading cloud solutions and managed services, including opportunities for big data and analytics projects,” Roughan added.
In addition to the facilities offered by the former broadcasting unit, iCity plan to transform the Olympic press centre building into a startup incubator, offering flexible, managed workspace for new digital businesses.
“We are looking forward to helping scale creative businesses, acquiring new talent, and supporting our startups with access to funding through venture capital opportunities,” said Gavin Poole, CEO of Here East.
With BT Sport already on board, Poole suggested that the BT Infinity Lab programme, which works with startups in the TechHub Old Street community, has the potential to translate across to Here East.
“We’re not interested in bringing in the mega giants, such as Google or Twitter. We are more interested in building businesses from within our community into billion pound projects. It would be great to see big buyouts from within the Here East cluster,” added Poole.
Many remain sceptical about the development, arguing that the site is too far out and will not be able to compete with the Old Street and Silicon Roundabout clusters. However, Poole explained that with growth stalling in those areas, due to increased pressure on space and rental prices, Here East will be able to provide an attractive alternative for entrepreneurs, with leading infrastructure, transportation links, and industry support.
Other units in the complex include a conference centre, which has already attracted interest from organisations such as TED, retail outlets, coffee shops, a micro-brewery, as well as art studios and workshops – building on Hackney’s established creative scene.
“As well as creating 7,500 jobs and thousands of training opportunities, Here East will provide state of the art infrastructure and capacity for the fastest growing sectors of the UK economy to continue their impressive expansion,” said Poole.