Matthew Weiner: Regeneration with purpose


As a business we are driven by a strong purpose to deliver long term value for all through regeneration. But what does it mean to regenerate? I prefer the biological definition which is about renewing organs.

I like to think of the towns and cities of the UK as those organs that need repairing, that’s what U+I means to me. Our job is to bring life back to sometimes overlooked and underestimated parts of London, Manchester and Dublin.

The organ we most care about putting new life into is the heart – the heart of the communities where we work, of our own business and of our whole sector. This means putting social purpose at the heart of all that we do helping to build trust in what we are doing. In recent years, many have said businesses have lost the trust of the people they exist to serve. Whether that is true or not, I think it is difficult for a developer like ourselves to be trusted unless we have a clear sense of purpose.

There are very pragmatic reasons for us to do so. Our regeneration schemes, which account for about a third of our business, are often developed in Public Private Partnerships (PPPs). The key word there is ‘partnerships’. These cannot work unless there is trust between the partners. If we are trusted, we will get more partnerships.

The strength of the pipeline we announced this week suggests that we have proven our purpose sufficiently to be entrusted with more and more projects, such as Cambridge Northern Fringe East. This is a unique opportunity to deliver many much-needed new homes, and in doing so to create a distinctive new part of Cambridge that will offer an amazing quality of life and respond to many of the challenges of the 21st century.

PPPs are a central part of what we do. We work better in partnership, everybody does. That’s why earlier this year we appointed Professor Sadie Morgan as a new independent Non-executive Director to drive accountability for delivering on the PPP commitments we made in our PPP: The Reset report. I am sure Professor Morgan will help us keep on track and allow us to demonstrate our desire to put communities at the heart of our PPP projects, alongside our public and private sector partners.

As I said last year, our true success will be measured not just by the numbers, but also by the places we create. An example of a project that helps define our sense of purpose is the development of The Old Vinyl Factory in Hayes. The Old Vinyl Factory is a mix of re-imagined Art Deco office buildings, new homes, innovation and educational hubs, restaurants, shops, a gym, cinema and a GP Practice. By the time it is completed in 2022, The Old Vinyl Factory will have 642 new homes.

In the coming year, we will be regenerating the heart of communities, earning our trust and displaying our purpose at the same time. And that will be good for all of us.

Watch the film

Matthew Weiner discusses our purpose and our focus on strong public and private partnerships.