Former Centre for Social Justice boss Gavin Poole on his vision for Hackney Wick’s tech hub Here East

Here East chief executive Gavin Poole

Here East chief executive Gavin Poole - Credit: Archant

Former thinktank boss Gavin Poole tells the Gazette about the Here East tech hub he runs at the Olympic Park.

In 2011, Gavin Poole was invited to help submit a bid on what to do with the one million square feet at the Olympic broadcast and press centres once the Olympic Games were over.

He was working for data centre company Infinity, and they beat off competitors including an indoor ski centre.

But the immense buildings were too big for a data centre alone, so Gavin “spun the company out” and came up with a regeneration vision for a tech campus on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

He sees his role at Here East to encourage start-up tech businesses and universities to collaborate with global brands.

Gavin joined the Royal Air Force aged 18 as an aeronautical engineer apprentice and went on to become an officer.

“The thing about engineers is we always break things down, into how you solve problem and mitigate the risk. We look at the design characteristics and how you make things work,” he said.

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He took over running Iain Duncan Smith’s Tory thinktank the Centre for Social Justice in 2008 – but left after four years because he “wanted to do something other than policy”.

He can understand why “a lot of people get agitated” about change in Hackney Wick, but says it’s not possible to “preserve the artists in aspic”. Rising rents have been blamed for driving out artists from what had been affordable studio space.

“The artist community in Hackney Wick is very strong but it’s weaker than it used to be,” he said.

“The local area is changing – they always do. For every high value technology job you get there’s always another two jobs. It comes out of the supply chain, or the spending power of the people living in the local area.”

But he added: “I accept there are responsibilities with being a developer, in making sure – particularly in arts and culture – that it is well supported.”

He believes Here East will become “really relevant” in the near future. “The use of robotics and artificial intelligence is going to allow us to interact with machines in a more meaningful way,” he said. “We are going to see these things in our lifetime, and it’s going to throw up a lot of questions which need to be addressed.

“Here East is a big beast to have in Hackney compared to everything else I see.”