In December, we reflected on the Smart Specialisation Hub’s 2017 – and looked at the macro influences which have affected both the way the Hub operates and how the breadth of innovation and place policy is being reshaped.
Over the coming months, we will be sharing updates, views and data as those policy and ecosystem changes fall into place, and the Hub and its team across both the National Centre and Knowledge Transfer Network responds to address the needs of our stakeholders – both local innovation leaders and thought-shapers, including universities and Local Enterprise Partnerships; and national Government and agencies.
Notably, towards the end of January we aim to release ‘Mapping Innovation Activity for the Devolved Administrations’. An expansion of ‘Mapping England’s Innovation Activity’, our visual analysis of Local Enterprise Partnerships, this report expands the underlying datasets into Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. We hope it will prove useful to those seeking to expand the discussion on available analysis and information on innovative activity. We will also continue to support the Science and Innovation Audit process on behalf of the consortia and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills – acting as a critical friend to third wave Audits, offering legacy support to their predecessors and offering carefully weighed advice to Government as they evaluate the process and consider whether it should be extended.
In the coming months we will be reaching out to LEPs as they develop their early-stage plans, offering to support them as they seek to improve and validate their understanding of local capabilities, and set them in national context – particularly against the backdrop of the rolling-out of sector deals.
This work is really our bread and butter. But beyond this, there is a broader background piece, set against the Industrial Strategy – the single most significant statement of policy on place-based innovation on which we can base our work.
The Strategy offers a number of signifiers towards the relevance of place to both Government and its agencies – and with the advent of UKRI very much on the horizon, these issues will be grappled with across the spectrum (as we see with some of the early tasks being assigned to the new innovation body, not least the vital mapping of Britain’s science infrastructure).
UKRI will also be responsible for delivery of the Strength in Places Fund, the £115m pot being put in place to support local projects and deliver economic impact and productivity – playing in excellent university research in places but not confining its investment to activity underpinned by it.
We are ready to play a role in adding to the evidence base that may support the allocation of this fund (indeed, the Strategy explicitly references the SIAs in this context). This place focus could also be reflected in the eventual design of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, which has an opportunity to catalyse cross-LEP collaborations through the deployment of financial levers, should that be Government’s intention. This all points to the place agenda retaining its prominent role.
But most significantly, the invitation to LEPs and other local actors to develop their own local Industrial Strategies offers an opportunity to the Hub to continue to help in this space. In the coming months we will be reaching out to LEPs as they develop their early-stage plans, offering to support them as they seek to improve and validate their understanding of local capabilities, and set them in national context – particularly against the backdrop of the rolling-out of sector deals. We look forward to bringing you more information on this and our other activities – including further analysis of the innovation ecosystem – as we go forward.