The issue of inclusive growth has become an increasingly important element of the policy agenda, according to Laura Heery, Economist at the Ulster University Economic Policy Centre.
With the publication of the Industrial Strategy green paper, policy makers are becoming concerned not only with economic growth, but also how this growth is spread spatially and among different demographic groups across the country.
A broader focus for devolution
This broader focus has raised the profile of localised growth and devolution, and how it can be used as a tool to support national competitiveness, whilst also addressing inequality issues.
This focus is evident in several recent reports published on this matter, including the Inclusive Growth Commission – led by the RSA, and chaired by Stephanie Flanders. In its final report, published in March, the Commission called upon the Industrial Strategy to include place-based growth as a core part of the whole Industrial Strategy, rather than applying it to one pillar only.
This is where the Smart Specialisation Hub fits well with policy direction; it provides a place-based snapshot insight into innovation – a key driver of productivity.
The Hub’s innovation data
The Hub draws together a range of indicators from various sources that relate to innovation assets and activities across English LEPs, and benchmarks it, to provide a consistent assessment of a LEP’s performance across these indicators. More information on how the framework operates is available here.
Of course, the analysis of data at this level does have its limitations; for example, data comparability and small sample sizes, and a lack of forward-looking data snapshots – but the Hub’s dataset helps to fill a gap regarding place-based innovation performance.
The establishment of an easily accessible database that combines multiple data sources and offers a consistent comparison of innovation assets and activities across LEPs, remains a core part of the Hub’s work – and a part of that work which is accelerating towards first-stage completion.
So how does this fit in with inclusive growth?
Data-led insight and evidence adds value to our understanding of innovation, particularly at a local level. The Hub, and its data can help inform local and national actors as they make decisions on prioritisation and investment.
It also prompts a discussion surrounding how best to measure local innovation performance, data availability and data restrictions. With this is mind, to remain relevant and informative, it must continue to be updated and amended to reflect the views of users.
Sustained, user-centric focus on maintaining, updating and enhancing our data provision is a fundamental piece of the puzzle. As we move into a new phase of our work, we must focus on how we apply this data to the real-world challenges faced by local and national actors as we seek to support uplifts in productivity and balanced growth across the country.
And data on innovation indicators and assets must be part of a holistic whole: a truly balanced, informed growth agenda needs to account for manifold inputs, outcomes and dependencies, reflecting skills provision, industrial leadership, cross-border partnering and the adoption of modern processes and techniques in currently non-innovative businesses.
Critical mass in innovation is one of the factors which must be brought to bear in the pursuit of inclusive growth; and ultimately, the Hub will support local and national players in forming a rounded view of capabilities and potentialities.
About Laura Heery
Laura has been working with our Research Analyst on completing the LEP datasets, and has kindly provided her views on how the Hub’s data is relevant to wider growth policy. You can find out more about her work here.