If you grew up anywhere near Glasgow, the changes are you’ve visited the Glasgow Science Centre (GSC) as a parent, pupil or day tripper, whether to wonder at the marvels of human discovery, watch a movie at the Imax, or take a trip up the infamous tower.
Today the Pacific Quay and surrounding areas are full of life, hosting the OVO Hydro and SEC, but that wasn’t the case when the centre opened back in 2001.
The former Plantation Quay had declined as shipping on the Clyde declined, and it ceased to be operational in 1970. Save for the Garden Festival in 1988 it was a little thought-of area of the city – until the Science Centre, a nominee for Glasgow’s Favourite Business, moved in. GSC was followed by the likes of the BBC, STV and, across the water, the Hydro as it led to a regeneration of the Clydeside.
Science Centre CEO Stephen Breslin said:
“We were almost the first residents on the Pacific Quay site and that has developed round about us. There’s a joke that the BBC building is the box the Science Centre came in!
“The site has developed, the BBC and other businesses have arrived and also there are the developments across the water in the exhibition campus.”
“It really feels like much more of a destination and a tourist stop-off point than it did before, and we’ve done our own work redeveloping the outside spaces.”
“We’re getting many people stopping off and hanging around the Science Centre where they’re able to enjoy some science exhibits outside on those drier, sunnier days.”
“The site continues to be developed, and it feels really good to see it become busier and more populated.”
It’s not just reclaiming the past that’s important for the Science Centre though, which has a mission to make the field much more accessible to people of all backgrounds. Over 100,000 travel grants have been given out for the most deprived area while 50 per cent of its science communicators are female – a big deal in what is a traditionally male-dominated field.
Stephen Breslin explains:
“It’s critically important and we have very deliberately tried to make ourselves more accessible and what we want is to attract an audience that is much more representative of the communities that surround us.”
“Over the past few years, we’ve been very deliberately trying to remove all of those barriers to entry, whether they’re real or perceived.”
“Some of those were physical things, so putting in changing places toilets for instance so the Science Centre is accessible to people with complex needs, but also to working with our staff to make sure that our staff are representative of the communities around us.”
“We do a lot of recruitment locally, and we try to bring people through from work experience to foundation apprenticeships to graduate apprenticeships so they can spend a long time with us and sort of grow up with the Science Centre.”
“Look at it from a purely skills perspective: we simply cannot find enough skilled people at all levels of science and technology, from technicians through to post-graduate research scientists and engineers.”
“We will not be able to find the people we need unless we manage to attract from a much broader and more diverse demographic, so that’s a big driver for us.”
“I like to look at in two ways: what does the UK economy need in order to continue to grow, innovate and take on some of these global challenges? But there’s another way of looking at it – there are all these opportunities out there, what do our young people need to be able to access these opportunities? And that, for me, is a much more compelling driver.”
“How can we work with our young people to make them aware of the kinds of opportunities that are opening up in a number of different sectors, and all locally?”
“Shipbuilding, construction, advanced laser technology, advanced medical sciences, space technology – all of these are key areas of growth within Scotland and specifically round about the west of Scotland.”
“So we want to make sure that the opportunities that are being created by these industries are accessible to kids that are local to the area.”
“We’ll work with them to build their confidence, skills and awareness and to encourage them to pursue some of those.”