Happy New Year from the Smart Specialisation Hub

by Andrew and Steve

The first year of the Smart Specialisation Hub was all about getting off the ground; now, with our structures in place and remit enhanced, we’re ready to ramp up our offer in 2017.

New year, new plans

Needless to say, last year saw some dramatic shifts around the Hub and its work. We have been fortunate to enjoy the support of our funders and partners as we have reoriented our efforts to better serve local innovation players as they try to adapt to a new way of doing things. Now, as we move into 2017, we are able to step up and support where we are needed the most – on the ground, helping Local Enterprise Partnerships, universities and others forge lasting and productive collaborations.

As our Director, Dr Steve Welch, set out in our Annual Report, we are lining up a series of actions to deliver on the Hub’s promise in the New Year across the operation:

Messaging & Promotion

We will be broadening the language that we use: not neglecting our Smart Specialisation heritage, but instead using a wider vocabulary that picks up on the way our activities are described more generally on the world stage.

Widening our reach

To help with dissemination of the Hub’s messages, we will work actively with other networks, nationally and locally. This will both extend our reach, and build valuable partnerships. An additional aim here is to simplify the landscape as seen by LEPs and other support organisations.

We will use Knowledge Transfer Network, European Enterprise Network and other networks to promote engagement with LEPs and strategies, and reinforce the message about the Hub’s role in helping collaborations, through validation, advice, and inspiration.

Interacting with LEPs

We will institute a more coherent programme of engagement with the individual LEPs, unifying our academic and industrial threads, and we will increase the volume of interactions. We will extend the capacity of the Hub by working richly with KTN, EEN and the Innovate UK regional managers to co-align other activities such as ‘Innovate in the Regions’, where the Hub will uniquely be able to oversee a more holistic approach. Working with local subject expert networks where they exist, the Hub will be able to extend its resource where objectives are shared.

Building relationships across the public sector

The Hub is currently supported by Innovate UK, HEFCE, BEIS and the European Regional Development Fund, who will continue to be the key stakeholders in our activity. However, it is vital that the Hub is actively engaged with the wider peer-group of relevant government departments where they intersect with the Hub’s aims. Also, the Hub must work in effective partnership with other notable innovation organisations to ensure effective joined-up delivery and avoid duplication.

Helping to find further funding

There is a gap in the access to funding and finance support: KTN and EEN and others are very effective at advising on direct exploitation and collaborative funding opportunities; but there is a layer of LEP and EU locality funding which is not so well served.

The Hub will address this by creating a funding tool kit which ties in the existing more linear supporting mechanisms with the place-based options. We will make this information public, but will primarily promote this via KTN and EEN agents by providing them with a decision-tree to follow so that they are able to signpost to locality funding options as well as their more classical routes.

Extend the Observatory

We plan to extend the observatory towards being a complete searchable repository for sources of data intersecting technology and place. Work is carried out by a variety of organisations and agencies, but even though this is often made public, it is still difficult to find.

At the Hub we are collecting this information, and by providing a single place to look for the information that is available we will support not only the enduring memory of the data that is available, but also facilitate discovery of information that is unsought.

Embedding our analytical work

The Hub has made a useful start in the collection and analysing of data – and the provision of credible and robust analysis of that data; but along with boosting the data collected and analysed in the originally projected way, we will be expanding the library side of the observatory.

We also recognise that there is a strong demand for effectively presented summaries of the information that arises from our analysis and we will be working with experts in data visualisation to produce graphic-rich representations.

Renewed and refreshed

As Steve observes:

“…our vision is to dramatically raise the Hub’s profile and establish its place in the UK innovation landscape as a beacon for independent, thoughtful and trusted advice on local capabilities and innovation strategy.”

Our focus, renewed and refreshed in the New Year, will be on single-mindedly achieving this goal.

About the author

Andrew Basu-McGowan is the Policy Manager for the Smart Specialisation Hub, a role he assumed in April 2016. Andrew’s chief focus is on forging the collaborations and policy links that drive connected localities and regions, and promoting the role of universities in building diverse and resilient economies.

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