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Tackling ‘piecemeal’ support for innovation clusters will drive transformational growth

New research by the NP11 details several recommendations to unlock the transformative potential of innovation clusters in the North’s economy.



• A major piece of research undertaken by the NP11 group of Northern LEPs has demonstrated the immense potential of different areas and sector specialisms.

• ‘Innovation Clusters in the North of England’ details 11 case studies of sectors and locations with major potential, ranging from Space to Clean Energy and Life Sciences.

• Businesses and sectors represented within clusters can benefit from agglomeration, scale, existing supply chains, talent attraction, cost efficiencies and heightened networking dynamics.

• The report details how stability, long-term commitments and transparency in the funding landscape would benefit and give confidence to industries.

• The work has been designed to support announcements from the 2023 Spring Budget and the Investment Zones programme.


A new piece of research has identified a series of potentially transformative industry clusters which could supercharge growth and innovation across the region.


Developed by the NP11, in partnership with Cambridge Econometrics, Datacity and Innovation Caucus, the ‘Innovation Clusters in the North of England’ research has been published in full today.


The research offers insights into how the public and private sector have already come together to support established and emerging innovation strengths in their areas while also looking at future potential and how to build on those successes.The analysis has been based on data from cluster mapping work undertaken by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, plus interviews with local stakeholders.


Denser concentrations of economic activity increase productivity, jobs and economic growth – and can lead to the development of enhanced infrastructure, such as communications and transportation systems, and business support services around the cluster to help it develop.


Clare Hayward MBE, DL Interim Chair of the NP11, said: “This research demonstrates the scale of the opportunity presenting itself here in the north. Given the right support, there is the potential to transform the region’s economy and industrial outlook. The ecosystems that focus on talent, connectivity, finance, shared knowledge and good infrastructure thrive.


“We can see the immense potential in the North and know that greater collaboration between the Government and Northern leaders will help unlock industries of the future. There is plenty more to be done, plenty to achieve demonstrating that the North is the vanguard across several growth sectors in the future.”


The research found that some clusters are successful because of major national and international investment and sustained funding directly to institutions, particularly into research and innovation systems such as; national centres of excellence, universities and catapults. This enhances activity on the ground to support networks, collaboration and knowledge flows.


However, piecemeal funding decisions run the risk of disjointed approaches and government departments and bodies need to work closely together to reduce duplication and to ensure clusters are supported strategically.


Competitive grant-funding can also create significant challenges, including difficulties in long term planning, encouraging localities to compete for the funding that exists instead of the funding they need, and punishing places with fewer resources and expertise to apply for funding.


Richard Stubbs, NP11 Board Member and Chief Executive of Health Innovation Yorkshire and Humber, said: “This research has helped us identify the key markers of a successful and impactful innovation cluster and how to potentially replicate successes.


“There are a number of challenges to overcome in terms of the funding landscape. It can be particularly difficult to secure the finances necessary to make big investments, particularly outside of the Golden Triangle, and long-term commitment and flexible funding pots could accelerate cluster growth and help unlock the immense potential of our innovative Northern industries.”


The eleven regions and sector cluster specialisms are as follows –

o Liverpool City Region: Life Sciences / Prevention of Infectious and Tropical Disease

o North East: Space

o Hull & East Yorkshire: Net Zero

o Lancashire: Defence and Security

o Cheshire & Warrington: Life Sciences

o Greater Manchester: Artificial Intelligence / Digital

o West Yorkshire: Artificial Intelligence / Healthtech

o Cumbria: Clean Energy

o York & North Yorkshire: Bioeconomy

o South Yorkshire: Metallurgy

o Tees Valley: Chemicals

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