Hubs of Innovation: A Playbook for Place Leaders

In the 2021 Budget, the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced a commitment “to stimulating private sector investment to create jobs, develop hubs of innovation, and revitalise local areas and regions across every part of the UK”. Appetite to broaden the geographic spread of UK innovation activity is not new: in 2019, Prof Richard Jones’ widely-read paper A Resurgence of the Regions highlighted the stark differences between the innovation activity in different parts of the country and made the case for significant investment in restoring the ‘industrial commons’ which enable local innovation economies to flourish. But what does it take to create and sustain these hubs of innovation?

As discussed in our previous Hubs of Innovation report, hubs take many forms and scales – from the grand sweep of Silicon Valley to the focussed energy of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London. There is no single recipe for success – but through a comprehensive review of the journeys of hubs in the UK, Connected Places Catapult has distilled down the key ingredients and steps which hubs go through as they move from being an abstract idea to a concrete, flourishing driver of regional value.

The Hubs of Innovation Playbook is a practical guide for place leaders who seek to establish or grow a hub in their region. With more than 100 locations in the UK already considering themselves locations of innovation in some shape or form, there is a huge amount of potential to turbo-charge the progress of these places, grow more high-value start-ups and generate the kind of positive spill-overs and whole place returns which are needed to ensure that hubs fulfil their role in the mission to level-up the UK.

The Playbook helps places which are already in the process of creating a hub, identify where they are on their journey, the key inputs, actions and decisions necessary – and importantly the pitfalls to avoid. For places that have yet to begin, it sets out the key ecosystem enablers which need to be established at the start of the journey and provides a roadmap to be consulted along the way.

A successful hub is always the result of collaboration; a clear vision and aligned agendas across a range of institutions. The Playbook has something to offer to all types of stakeholder – be they a local government official, a real estate developer, an investor, an established business or knowledge anchor such as a university. Combining the capabilities of all these players in a synergistic way is the key to a success, an art – and one which this tool will help support across the UK, and hopefully contribute to a renaissance of innovation.

As covid-19 vaccines begin to be deployed around the world and the attention in the UK turns to ‘building back’ better, there is increasing focus on the role of place in fostering the innovative, high value businesses that are important drivers of economic growth and prosperity. We are excited to contribute to this imperative through this work.

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Connected Places Catapult provides impartial advice and practical support while you navigate a path to become a place of innovation at any stage of maturity and development.

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