Investment in innovation districts can make UK more competitive, says report

INVESTMENT in innovation districts which are based in the heart of cities can help to improve productivity across the UK, according to a report.

Tom Bridges

The study from the UK Innovation Districts Group (IDG) and consulting and engineering firm, Arup, claims that the development of innovation districts can support the Government’s industrial strategy.

The IDG was established in October 2017 and represents major innovation districts across the UK – in Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, London and Manchester.

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The innovation districts across the UK have joined together to urge Government, cities and city regions to channel investment in to “mature and growing” innovation districts.

Greater investment in innovation districts will help accelerate productivity growth in the UK, according to the report’s findings.

An IDG spokesman said: “Specifically, it will support more inclusive growth by prioritising diversity, education, skills and social networks to create fair and thriving local economies.”

Innovation districts are urban areas with networks of knowledge producing organisations such as universities, research bodies, teaching hospitals, cultural institutions and knowledge intensive businesses.

They bring together innovators, entrepreneurs, researchers, creatives, knowledge workers and investors to collaborate, compare and compete, creating the conditions for business growth, the report said.

The report, which marks the first collaborative project for the IDG, looks at the progress made by its districts so far, alongside the priorities and opportunities for the future.

The report concludes that innovation districts should work together more closely as a national network.

Cities, city regions and innovation districts should continue to secure capital investment in public spaces, physical and digital infrastructure, and new buildings in innovation districts, the report states.

The report added: “Government, LEPs (local enterprise partnerships) and combined authorities and cities should invest in developing the networks to support business growth in innovation districts.”

Tom Bridges, a director at Arup, said: “This report shows that innovation districts are emerging as new urban districts that can help UK cities create, scale up and attract fast-growing firms which will drive more productive and inclusive economic growth.

“In the context of the UK’s sluggish productivity growth, government and cities should prioritise investment in innovation districts as part of a place-based approach to delivering the industrial strategy.”

Mr Bridges added: “What the evidence shows is that innovation and the commercialisation of innovation happens in places.”

Mr Bridges said the success of NorthInvest, a not for profit company that connects ventures to mentors and investors, showed that investors were keen to support growing firms in the North of England. Leeds also has a strong record of creating university spin-outs, he added.

Emma Frost, Chair of the UK Innovation Districts Group, said: “Innovation Districts are reshaping and rejuvenating major urban areas around the UK. This inaugural report highlights the real potential that innovation districts have to increase productivity and ensure local economies across the UK are more economically inclusive and prosperous.”