The UK is at an important inflection point in its ambition to create world-class hubs of innovation – places fuelled by the technologies, the trust and the teamwork to become genuine destinations of discovery and drivers of new skills, good jobs and broad-based opportunity. 

Original Article by Catapult, to read detailed article please click Here


Covid-19, Brexit, Net Zero and Levelling Up provide a compelling set of reasons to focus harder than ever on what it takes to really marry innovation with a mission for a place.

As those of us already working in one of these locations can testify, it is an art more than a science to continually bring forward the right pro-innovation physical spaces with the networks, tailored support, services and amenities to match. At the same time the task is to inspire the institutional buy-in and the confidence and involvement of communities. It takes time, patience, and dedication. Yet the rewards are tangible – more capable clusters of mixed companies, a hot bed for start-ups and more diversified investment, greater appeal as well as opportunities to ‘grow-your-own’ talent, and more of a lasting sense of local pride and belonging to a place.

As our recently published Hubs of Innovation Playbook shows, up until now there have been many more attempts to build and foster hubs of innovation in the UK than there have been successes. Perhaps only a handful of locations have achieved the kind of scale, sustainability and enduring impact that they have the potential to. Yet we now see many highly promising innovation-driven places where partnerships are starting to tackle big challenges facing their city, region and the wider world. The UK’s domestic and global aspirations need more of them to make the journey to full scale and whole place success.

There are four main lessons in the handbook that are worth drawing attention to in particular:

1. It is a long path to a become a place that is truly a global hub of innovation, and this path is not for every place everywhere. It takes clarity of vision and purpose, many cycles of investment, concentrated commitment and generous, collective leadership. Over time the mission quite rightly gets larger, broader and relies on more ingredients – but throughout this evolution, the shared vision must remain consistently strong.

2. To hold a global status, more and more innovation places now recognise the need to also be rooted in local foundations. A commitment to ‘whole place return’ with a focus on good growth over any growth is a central part of how we build back better and take innovation further and deeper.

3. Getting the fundamentals right at the start – the knowledge networks, the future industry drivers, the skills, the incentives, and the inclusivity – is essential to avoid disappointment.

4. If we really want more hubs of innovation, everyone has a role to play. It requires a willingness to do things differently in central government, local authorities, major institutions, investors, academic anchors, infrastructure providers, planners, anchor businesses and of course, the citizens whom innovation ultimately serves.

What is exciting is the momentum that has built up behind the UK’s emerging and aspiring innovation districts to become more connected nationally and globally. Together, they are becoming more informed by each other’s experiences, and fostering a shared spirit of purpose and co-operation that provides mutual advantage as they rethink their path to success after Covid-19. More places are learning to do the right things and sidestep avoidable mistakes.

As much as possible, we should try and learn how to do this together. Diversity fuels innovation. We need diversity of thought to shape the best version of innovation places. This handbook adds to our collective knowledge base as we kick start our innovation-led recovery.


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