Business, political and academic leaders have signed a manifesto addressed to the Government to boost innovation across the regions.
The document has been addressed to Business Secretary Alok Sharma, and pledges signatories’ support for various commitments aimed at increasing productivity through innovation, levelling up the UK economy, and supporting its Covid-19 recovery.
Dozens of signatories include Lord Jim O’Neill, Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, Sir Richard Leese and metro mayors for Manchester and Liverpool, Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram.
Other signatories also include Andy Street, mayor of West Midlands Combined Authority, Councillor Ian Ward, leader of Birmingham City Council and Tim Pile, chair of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership.
The 32 leading names cover regions including the North West, West Midlands and Yorkshire and Humber.
The 10-point manifesto includes a call for a new national innovation policy, a target for every UK region to have a centre of world-class research excellence by 2040 and greater collaboration between UK cities, in order to boost science and technology innovation.
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.
The full 10-point manifesto:
- Implement a new national innovation policy – Focusing on sectoral activity has come at the expense of the wider factors that determine innovation success. We must review and refresh our approach to national innovation policy to give a greater focus on ‘Place’ and to back this up with the promised increase to 2.4% of GDP spending on R&D..
- Review of our innovation infrastructure – We lag behind our competitor countries in the scale and effectiveness of our innovation infrastructure. The government should commit to a rapid review to ensure it’s working as well as it can for businesses and places.
- Prioritise translational research – we must capture more of the value created by the UK’s research and seize the commercial opportunities they represent. Making translational research a greater strategic priority – nationally, locally and within businesses, academic and research institutions.
- Every UK region should have at least one world class centre of research excellence – UK R&D expenditure has focused on the same regions for too long. Currently over 50% goes to London and the South East. It needs to be rebalanced and targeted to ‘level-up’ our economy over the next 20 years.
- Support cities and regions in adopting a collaborative approach and a global mind-set – Government, civic leaders and businesses can learn from world-leading examples of place-based innovation. UK cities must collaborate focusing on their distinct but complementary specialisms.
- Transform attitudes so that businesses back innovation – Too many places in the UK lack the absorptive capacity needed to convert investment into innovation, jobs and growth. The public sector and business need to back new ideas and business models to promote innovation activities.
- Empower civic leaders – The cities and regions that support innovation best have a shared understanding of their strengths and where they have the potential to be world-class. Devolving power, responsibility and decision making away from Whitehall will help build this capacity.
- Develop alternative investment models – Property developers and investors need to offer more flexible solutions and capital alongside long-term investment strategies to support the development of innovation districts and places. Coupled with greater flexibility for public sector investment funds and decision making this will support innovation in places.
- Realise the ‘Power of Three’ – Innovation districts, place ecosystems and innovation ecosystems need to be given more equal weight and consideration when developing long-term strategies, be that by national government, local leaders, institutions, investors or developers.
- Transform place to attract and retain talent – People are at the heart of innovation. Successful place-based innovation needs to ensure a quality of life that will help to attract talent and retain it for the long-term.
Nigel Wilson, chief executive of Legal & General, said: “The UK is world leading in scientific research and discovery.
“It has an army of talented tech entrepreneurs. But we consistently fail to turn enough new ideas into new jobs and growth. The Government’s commitment to raise R&D spending to 2.4% of GDP by 2027 is welcome, but without support for places to develop their innovation ecosystems over the long term, meeting the target will still miss the point.
“As a business, L&G has invested more than £25bn in levelling up regional economies; through new homes, science parks, roads, wind farms, business start-ups and digital infrastructure.
“We have 134 projects across the country worth £6.3bn – with another £6.8bn in planning. Our focus on science and technology includes our £4bn partnership with Oxford University delivering new innovation facilities, our funding for the £40m Edinburgh University project on future social care and investments in renewable energy research, through Tokamak, Oxford PV and other similar businesses. But as a country, we need to do more.
“Today’s manifesto, with the backing of so many of the UK’s leading figures, provides a roadmap for the UK to continue to thrive.”
The manifesto follows the publication of a report produced for Bruntwood SciTech, a 50:50 joint venture between Bruntwood and Legal & General, into the current state of the UK’s innovation infrastructure.
The document says the current crisis has increased the importance of science and technology hubs such as Bruntwood SciTech – which brings together investors with leading universities, the NHS and world class research facilities.
A copy of the manifesto and its signatories has been sent to Mr Sharma, calling for his department’s support.
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Chris Oglesby, chief executive at Bruntwood, added: “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.”