Recognising England’s innovative clusters

The Importance of Clusters in Global Innovation Trends

This year’s Global Innovation Index (GII), a ranking of 127 countries across the world measuring levels of innovation based on a number of detailed metrics, has released a special section on Clusters of Inventive Activity. The authors recognise both the importance of place, and the challenges of getting hold of empirical insight and data comparing the performance of individual innovation clusters. In this first step, the GII captures general innovation activity occurring at sub-national level and plans to deepen the analysis at a later stage by looking at specific technologies and industries within the clusters.

Having a local perspective of innovation is not a new concept but its importance to fostering entrepreneurship is becoming more and more recognisable. There is a clear need for identifying and understanding clusters of sectoral innovation activity and at the Smart Specialisation Hub we are dedicated to meeting that need for the UK by providing relevant data, intelligence and analysis.

Identifying Clusters on the Map of England’s Innovation Activity

We might think of clusters of sectoral innovation activity as situated within government defined geographical units, but this is rarely the case. Our publication, Mapping England’s Innovation Activity, allows us to look beyond defined geographical boundaries and spot groups of LEPs with strengths in similar sectors.

One such grouping is a group of LEPs in the middle of the country demonstrating above average activity in high valued manufacturing (HVM). Coventry and Warwickshire, Oxfordshire, Sheffield City Region, Leicester and Leicestershire, and Greater Birmingham and Solihull are performing above average and form a concentrated North-South “line” of increased HVM activity.

These LEPs include the established industrial centres in and around Birmingham and Coventry anchored by the HVM Catapult centres at Ansty and the University of Warwick, and at Catcliffe near Sheffield, but cuts across Innovate UK’s regions, and across the boundaries of the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine.  Grouping them as one HVM cluster might be useful when designing regional policies and strategies.

As the importance of place-based innovation grows, Mapping England’s Innovation Activity offers useful tools to start identifying and understanding the dynamics of high-technology clusters. We at the Hub will continue highlighting interesting trends in developing industry clusters based around local expertise and networks, in order to bridge the knowledge gap and support the growth of nationally and globally competitive clusters.

Get in touch

As always, we are happy to help and to hear from you. Please contact us if you would like to discuss data for your region, and follow us on Twitter for the latest updates and thoughts on current innovation policy.

About the author

Ross is Interim Head of Place for Innovate UK, and a Stakeholder Engagement Manager for the Smart Specialisation Hub.

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