It is now widely recognised that economic productivity is unevenly distributed across the UK and that something needs to be done to ‘level up’ the towns and cities outside the south east of England.
Despite once leading Europe on productivity, the average British worker produced 16% less on average than counterparts in other member of the G7. Within the UK however, there are wide variations: Analysis by Centre for Cities shows that cities in the ‘greater south east’ are almost 50 per cent more productive than their urban counterparts elsewhere in the UK. Therefore, levelling up needs to take place to to improve regional economic productivity across the UK.
Looking beyond the UK, eight of the UK’s 12 regions fall within the 14 least productive regions amongst European comparators. Aside from London, the only UK region amongst the top half of performers is the South East (ranked 17 of the 52 regions).
Seeding and supporting innovation clusters across the UK
“Despite advances in modern communication technologies, the evidence shows that so-called knowledge spillovers are largely confined to their geographic region — distance is not dead.” — Prof Richard Jones, citing Sergey Lychagin.
Having said that it is now widely recognised that something needs to be done to ‘level up’ the towns and cities outside the south east of England, what is less clear is where and how public investment should be focussed in order to deliver the desired improvements in regional productivity and prosperity.
From my time as a local government Chief Executive, I know all too well what it takes to transform the destiny of a local economy. During my time at Hull City Council, we worked hard to bring Siemens to the city, and to align the investments made by the university towards attracting and growing the talent needed to fill the high-value jobs that Siemens would create. Almost a decade on, the city is reaping the rewards of those early investments by the council, port and other strategic partners, with a thriving innovation economy centred on renewable energy providing a bright future for workers in Hull and the wider region.
At the Connected Places Catapult, we have experience supporting future-facing place leaders to seed and stimulate innovation economies in the UK and globally. From steering elements of the Belfast City Region Deal to supporting the creation of Smart Dubai, we have partnered with places to unlock economic and environmental benefits through the adoption of new technologies and innovative approaches.
Building on that experience, we have commissioned new analysis looking at how proposed investments and attention might best be directed to realise the Government’s levelling up ambitions — and how places themselves can rise to the present opportunity.
This first report, delivered in collaboration with the Centre for Cities, looks particularly at the characteristics that define the UK’s top performing innovation economies and which others have the strongest potential to join London, Oxford and Cambridge as engines of Britain’s economy.
In addition to sharing the findings with Whitehall policy makers and place leaders, we will use this analysis to prioritise and shape our own engagement with UK towns, cities and regions to understand and provide the support different nascent clusters need to ‘level up’.
We look forward to working with Government, innovators and place leaders across the UK to foster new vision and growth, to see next-generation services and solutions harnessed which restore our industrial commons, and to create the conditions for a new wave of entrepreneurship, innovation and productivity that will enable all to prosper.
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Whether you are looking to level up or stay ahead, Connected Places Catapult provides impartial advice and practical support to help places harness the power of innovation — and bridge the gap between innovators, industry, buyers and suppliers in the connected places market.