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MIPIM 2024 — the role of real estate in sustainable regional development

AuthorsKrista PowellHelen Brown

MIPIM 2024 the role of real estate in sustainable regional development

During March, conversations in the real estate sector are often dominated by the subject of MIPIM — the deals that are struck, the projects that are unveiled and the impact that a week-long international conference will have on local communities in the future.

Northern cities are regularly out in force, marketing their propositions to international investors and our real estate law team was in attendance again this year in support of the region.

Here, our Partners Helen Brown and Krista Powell reflect on the themes of this year’s international real estate investment conference and its alignment with our True North network.


Real estate’s role in regional development

MIPIM has changed significantly in recent years, with a greater focus on ESG and how the sector generates social impact — something that was more apparent than ever in 2024. Notably though, there was a clear alignment between the conference’s speaker programme and the themes raised by members of Brabners’ new True North network, which launched last Autumn.

Chief among these was the role of real estate and infrastructure in facilitating the growth of strategic industries in devolving counties and city regions — including life sciences and advanced manufacturing. Scaling innovation within these industries is key to the future of the northern economy but the right commercial ecosystems — including real estate provision — are needed to support businesses and provide funders with the confidence to deploy risk capital into entrepreneurial ideas.

The official launch of the Liverpool City Region Investment Zone at MIPIM was therefore a highlight of the week. The Investment Zone has the potential to generate £800m of public and private investment over the next decade and was a major focus for the Liverpool Place Partnership. The partnership —   which we proudly sponsor and contribute to (Helen is a member of its steering group) — is designed to leverage the city’s rich property development legacy on a global stage.

Applying heat to sustainable practices

We can also expect Liverpool’s Investment Zone to be a central initiative alongside the Greater Manchester and Yorkshire equivalents at the upcoming UKREiiF conference in May. The success of these investment zones and the regional economies around them will — alongside devolution — be driven by sustainable businesses with ethical practices at their heart. With that in mind, it was particularly pleasing to see sustainability and the race to net zero featuring so heavily in discussion — despite the economic challenges of recent years.

Of note was the emergence of local authority-led heat networks, which will facilitate the private sector’s transition to sustainable energy. However, it’s clear that there is still a significant need to scale up the response to the climate challenge — both in terms of new build premises and through retrofit. While many businesses have the opportunity to drive their own positive change, conversations around how Government can better incentivise the transition remained prominent.

Regional collaboration is required to deliver social impact

Of course, none of this will be possible without urban development and regeneration being delivered with social impact at its core. The devolution process is moving regional authorities in the right direction but we need to move away from a model where they compete with one another to access national funding pots if they are to deliver to best effect.

Positively, it’s clear that there is a genuine appetite for city regions to work collaboratively and in a more holistic way while competition for funding remains fierce. Indeed, it was particularly heartening to see senior representatives from Belfast, Cardiff and the Central South district (which incorporates areas along the south coast of England) breaking bread and sharing ideas with the Liverpool City Region delegation at the UK Cities Dinner. Likewise, there was a huge amount of crossover in leaders from the North — including Greater Manchester — participating on panels alongside those from London and other international cities.

Creating positive change as part of the True North network

As the sun sets on another MIPIM, businesses in attendance — hopefully inspired by the conference — will be taking lessons away to create their own positive change. We intend to continue doing so through True North, which has now grown to more than 150 purpose-led organisations.

If you’d like to play your part in unlocking the true potential of the northern economy, join our network.

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