Michael Heseltine reminds us of the crucibles of the Industrial Revolution.


They were great cities like Glasgow, Cardiff, Belfast, Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham.

In his discussion with Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight in November 2012, Heseltine argued that economic policy should focus on harnessing the power of such cities as well new powerhouses, such as Bristol and Aberdeen, and should integrate broader localities and regions.

Universities must be at the heart of this new industrial regionalism. Not only are they are a major source of talent, innovation and enterprise, they also provide ways of tethering and bonding businesses and clusters of companies together.

As Business Secretary Vince Cable recognised in his response to Heseltine, geographical and industrial strategy have always overlapped. Not every locality can be a centre of excellence for everything. Using the specialisms developed in universities will be a vital contributor to regional selectivity on how to grow specific sectors.

Bringing together manufacturing, universities and business to drive innovation

Two years ago, a Task Force for the Council for Industry and Higher Education, the NCUB’s predecessor organisation, called for the coalition to co-ordinate the Local Enterprise Partnerships, the Technology Strategy Board’s Catapults, and the regional growth fund to ensure a coherent response to the challenges of advanced manufacturing. The Heseltine approach provides the opportunity to drive at this challenge.

The Task Force in particular argued for the development of Advanced Manufacturing Enterprise Clusters (AMECs) to bring together universities, major manufacturing businesses, small and medium-sized industries and start-ups situated in the same area to stimulate collaboration and innovation.

These AMECs would reward knowledge-based entrepreneurship, ensure better and faster planning permission, build on the tax incentives that support manufacturing research and development, and reward universities for their support for advanced manufacturing businesses – especially SMEs as they look to scale-up.

Can opening up IP give manufacturing and business clusters a boost?

One pre-condition for such clusters was universities opening up their Intellectual Property (IP) for general use by entrepreneurs and industrialists. And the new National Centre will take on the challenge of collaborating with others to ensure that IP that is easy to access is also easy to understand and use.

We need your help to achieve this. Any ideas on how to use university IP to drive manufacturing or business clusters that are locally grounded but global in scope we would be happy to share with our NCUB community.

Please send us an email with your thoughts to: NCUB@NCUB.co.uk