Why a centre of innovation excellence should be created in every English region

Leaders from Yorkshire’s business, academic and civic institutions have written to the Business Secretary Alok Sharma calling for increased attention and funding for innovation in the English regions.

The manifesto document, signed by the likes of former treasury minister Lord Jim O’Neill, as well as metro mayors, chamber of commerce leaders and Business Improvement District bosses, calls for a new national innovation policy focusing on sectoral activity.

The manifesto calls for a review and refresh of national innovation policy to give a greater focus on ‘Place’ and to back this up with the promised increase to 2.4 per cent of GDP spending on R&D.

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Included in its 10-point plan is a call for every UK region to have at least one world class centre of research excellence. UK R&D expenditure is heavily focused on London and the South East which currently receives more than half of the UK’s total R&D spend.

Innovation manifesto is launched

It also calls for greater support for cities and regions in adopting a collaborative approach and a global mindset, as well as the empowerment of civic leaders and the development of alternative investment models.

Property developers and investors, it says, need to offer more flexible solutions and capital alongside long-term investment strategies to support the development of innovation districts.

The signatories – which also include Martin Farrington, director of city development at Leeds City Council, Andrew Cooper, chief executive of Leeds BID and Sandy Needham, chief executive of the West and North Yorkshire Chamber – said the commitments would deliver increased productivity, level-up the UK economy and support its bounce back from Covid-19.

The manifesto calls on more businesses, with the support of the public sector, to back new ideas and innovation-based activities to increase the absorptive capacity of UK cities, improving their ability to convert investment into innovation, jobs and growth.

Chris Oglesby, inset, chief executive, Bruntwood, said: “It can take 20 years to develop a successful innovation district as we have seen in Manchester’s Oxford Road corridor. But it is just one of a handful in the UK today and we believe there is the potential for one in every region. We can’t afford to lose any more time and risk falling further behind on the global stage.

“Yes, we need more R&D investment but of equal importance is creating thriving locations that attract talent and have the ecosystems that can support innovation-led activities.

“The answer lies in building on the unique strengths of the world class academic infrastructure that already exists in our cities. Bring together all the parties needed to make new innovation happen and then work collaboratively – including with other UK cities – to grow the pie rather than fighting over it.”