Coliving concepts as the perfect petri-dish for innovation districts.

Coliving spaces can be the ultimate catalysts for innovation districts. Obviously you need housing to retain the mobile bright minds, but really, such concepts allow that talent to live the life they like: flexible, international and experience led. For these new coliving models to really turn into petri-dishes for competitive cities, policymaking needs to be adjusted. Local and regional governments can fast-track investment and development of these spaces, and stay ahead of the curve.


The case for attracting international talent is clear. International students in Europe have a direct economic of 24.000 euro a year, when we add up cost of attendance, living and daily spendings. But that impact starts to multiply when they stay after graduation as full-fledged young professionals. Countries like Canada and Australia present success stories with high retention rates as a result of progressive visa policies.

In this era of global higher education, demand for hybrid living spaces continues to rise. Mobile students have driven strong demand for purpose-built accommodation  and this trend is long term, with the OECD projecting mobile students to reach 8 million worldwide by 2020. In parallel, global student housing investment volumes have risen 87% in the last five years. While demand for international higher education continues to rise, regions like Europe have seen strong PBSA transactions (up 29% year-on-year to €13.6 billion in 2017).


Students are not alone in disrupting traditional notions of PBSA. Investors and operators blurring old lines between ‘what’ and ‘how’ to optimize urban living, reimagining a hybrid residence by breaking down boundaries between student housing, hotel and short stay accommodations. With new models and new technologies, PBSA is emerging into intelligent buildings and connected communities across the globe.

Modelled on student accommodation, coliving is emerging as a natural next step for footloose talent after graduation.

The coliving frenzy aggregates young professionals by curating opportunities to co-create a living community. These likeminded young adults are more likely to be single, more likely to rent, favour city living and often pursue temporary jobs. Obviously, some of these drivers are interdependent and one should be mindful about the accessibility of such concepts.


Student accommodation and coliving spaces have the potential to fulfil two types of popular demand. Firstly, they can be the key for cities to attract and retain the mobile bright minds they so desperately need. Secondly, they accommodate a footloose GenY to live the life they like: flexible, international and experience led. For these new living models to really be leveraged as petri-dishes for innovative cities, changes in urban development need to be supported. Local and regional governments can fast-track investment and development of these spaces by:

  • Fitting zoning to mixed-use building typologies which are hybrids of residential, office, hospitality and commercial.
  • Re-regulating the private residential market for students for short-stay needs.
  • Prioritising the urban campus model to blend living / working / learning spaces and maximize the impact of talent on cities.
  • Committing to an ambitious vision for academic internationalisation and promote talent retention through stay-back visas.

Across Europe, universities are being promoted as agents of urban innovation because they can generate economic activity and produce skilled localised workforces to power the knowledge economy. When making plans to ”Engage the Future” it’s clear that cultivation of the ultimate urban living models is the only way to make talent stick to cities.

This article originally appeared in MIPIM World Blog, prior to Jorick’s Pecha Kucha “Engaging The Future” at MIPIM 2019. MIPIM World Blog delivers expert insights on the key trends shaping the real estate industry today. 

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