REPORT

Opening the Innovation Economy: The case for inclusive innovation in the UK

New research explores how places can help spread prosperity by making the innovation economy more inclusive.

In February 2022, the UK Government’s Levelling Up White Paper set out a mission to increase expenditure on public research and development outside the Greater South East by at least 40% by 2030. It also outlined plans for new Innovation Accelerators in Glasgow, the West Midlands, and Greater Manchester.

To understand how, as part of the levelling-up agenda, places right across the UK can deliver truly inclusive innovation, the UK Innovation Districts Group and Connected Places Catapult commissioned research. A team, led by Metro Dynamics and Professor Neil Lee, explored the dynamics of innovation in local economies through interviews with people leading and working in innovation districts across the UK.  The conversations covered how districts are delivering inclusive innovation on the ground, from involving local communities in setting their strategies to employment and training opportunities.

From this research, the report:

  • identifies ten levers that leaders in the private and public sectors can pull to make the process and outputs of innovation more inclusive;
  • highlights a number of successful projects and programmes demonstrating elements of successful inclusive innovation up and down the country; and
  • provides recommendations for key delivery partners including innovation districts, national Government, and local governments.
“Against a backdrop of environmental crisis, post-COVID uncertainty and a rising cost of living, it is more important than ever to widen the funnel of who participates in innovation economies in the UK. This is the only way that we will achieve the additionality and growth that UK communities and economies need.”

‘This research, jointly commissioned by the UK Innovation Districts Group and Connected Places Catapult, has examined where places are successfully doing just that. It is critical that we, as innovation districts leaders and policymakers, understand the building blocks that create thriving, inclusive, and sustainable local innovation economies and how these can be delivered at scale.”

Emma Frost, Chair, UK Innovation Districts Group
“Innovation does not happen in a vacuum; it happens in places and is shaped by people. Inclusive innovation is about making sure that the innovation economy creates opportunities people and communities from all corners of the country – not just in London and the South East.

“We know that innovation currently represents just a fraction of the UK’s economic activity but it has a profound influence on increasing prosperity and future-proofing economic structures. For too many people the prospect of working in innovation is remote, and the benefits of new discoveries are disconnected from their own lives. We need a more inclusive innovation economy to activate the UK’s latent potential.”

Sam Markey, Ecosystem Director - Place Leadership, Connected Places Catapult