Innovation and the city
How innovation has developed in five city-regions
Cities provide an ideal environment for innovation: in the words of this report, they offer proximity, density and variety. However, some cities are more innovative than others, and policymakers have long been concerned with finding out why.
Unpacking this problem requires considerable effort. Cities are complex systems and they exist in the context of regions, nations and international relationships. Moreover, cities themselves rarely innovate – they are hosts for innovation by people, firms and organisations. This means that cities often support innovation indirectly – and that some of the most important things they do are not thought of as innovation policy at all.
Building effective regional coalitions for innovation
For regions without the extraordinary assets of Silicon Valley (what we term here ‘ordinary’ regions), making the leap from an old-economy paradigm to one based on innovation in services and high-tech industries can seem impossible. But it isn’t. As we show here, it is made up of a series of smaller, more achievable steps. Two things stand out, however: this isn’t a fast process; and it requires deep regional knowledge and strong regional leadership.
The case studies presented in this report showcase seven European regions that have successfully made the transition from ordinary to innovative region; and four UK regions that are somewhere along that journey. It concludes by presenting a guide to the ‘regional innovation journey’ and an analysis of the types of leadership that may be required along the way.
In the past, innovation policy has tended to concentrate on urban areas. This is understandable: simply due to density, much traditional innovation that is countable by R&D expenditure or patent production happens in cities.
But 86 per cent of the UK is rural, and those areas are home to almost 20 per cent of the population. Isn’t it time to look a little more closely at how innovation happens there and how we might stimulate it?