On 14 June, the CBI in partnership with Virgin Media O2 Business, hosted its third regional roadshow event.
Held at Strathclyde University in Glasgow, Hashi Mohamed, Contributing Editor at Tortoise Media was joined by businesses to discuss how clusters can help form innovation partnerships that make the best of the UK research, and drive high value growth.
Leading business figures from the across the UK shared their insights on what is needed, noting that building a strong culture of innovation which facilitates trusted collaboration between firms is critical to business success and the lynchpin of dynamic clusters.
Nurturing an environment where strategic partnerships between firms and also between business, universities and government to de-risk investments is crucial to accelerating innovation. This also needs to be underpinned by having academic institutions effectively plugged into communities, with the value generated coming from accessibility, practicality and industry knowledge sharing which can help translate research and development into commercially successful products and services.
Read the sense maker guide
The sensemaker guide provides background and an overview of clusters in the UK to help stimulate thought.
Listen to the podcasts
Listen to our third podcast and join Hashi Mohammed, Contributing Editor at Tortoise Media, Ben Law, VP for GoDaddy in UK & Ireland, and Dr Poonam Malik, Head of Investments at Strathclyde University, to discuss how economic clusters can help drive up innovation collaboration in every region and nation of the UK
Event readout written by Hashi Mohamed, Editor at Tortoise
Clusters ThinkIn: How can economic clusters help drive collaborative innovation across the UK?
On 14 June 2022, CBI’s national clusters roadshow went to Glasgow’s Technology & Innovation Centre at Strathclyde University, in partnership with Virgin Media O2 Business. Leading figures in industry, academia, government and policy gathered to answer the question: can economic clusters help drive collaborative innovation across the UK?
It was quickly established that clusters can drive innovation in a collaborative way. The question then turned to how clusters could help to achieve more successful innovation and growth within an area.
Naomi Weir, the CBI’s Head of Innovation, established at the outset that whilst innovation had a huge role to play in bringing about a pro-growth environment, clusters could accelerate this further.
Clusters, Naomi said, can help grow private sector-led investment and encourage businesses from high-value sectors into a place. Agglomeration also encourages a multiplier effect that can help innovative businesses boost each other – and share risk. That makes clusters a “safe place to do risky things,” she said.
But what comes first, the cluster or the companies? “Glasgow had no space sector when I started Clyde Space,” reflected Craig Clark, as he relocated from Surrey to his hometown and founded his own company.
“I think Glasgow is more of an organic cluster,” he continued, “so it started with Clyde Space and then that attracted other businesses to come [...] Clusters come about because there are market opportunities, and for market opportunities to exist, there needs to be innovation.”
Though innovation is often led by individual pioneers, such as Craig Clark, these market opportunities can be supported and fostered further by government support.
Alasdair McLeod, the devolved administration’s Head of Innovation. “Innovation is obviously crucial to transforming the economy,” said Mr. McLeod, who flagged the Scottish government’s goal to become one of the world’s most innovative small nations by 2032.
Julian Dines, Head of Innovation at the Scottish branch of the Science and Technology Facilities Council, said that investments played an important role in fostering cluster development,“There are these clusters that can be created, they can be fostered” he said, “Things like supporting access to those big bits of capital, to me, helps create those clusters in a region,” he said. Ben Law, VP for UK & Ireland at GoDaddy similarly emphasised the importance of access to capital for microbusinesses, which represent the majority of businesses in the UK.
Dr. Poonam Malik, Head of Investments at the University of Strathclyde, spoke of the importance of anchor institutions,“If you take Scotland, it’s got the best universities in the world… but [it’s] the collaboration and the strength of that that draws investment into the place,” Dr. Malik said. Paul Winstanley from CENSIS echoed some of these sentiments around the need for academic institutions to be effectively plugged into communities.
And, as with so many of the key questions tied to clusters, the question of innovation is closely tied to the provision of skills. Asked which ingredients were necessary for an innovative cluster to thrive, Mark Napier, Managing Director of Global Technology at JP Morgan, cited “skills, and access to people, and access to future talent.”
To reflect back on the initial question, there is unanimous agreement that clusters can help to drive innovation, and plenty of examples as to how this has been done to date. But there remain gaps to fill in order to find more ways of making this a reality, with the Scottish government’s agenda offering a real opportunity to impact policy in the short term.
The key determining success factors which continue to emerge included
- Anchor institutions - the University of Strathclyde and the local innovation District was an example of recent success.
- Greater partner collaboration - particularly between industry and academic institutions, in terms of skills, physical space, funding, and technical support
- The ‘neutral broker’ which could also translate to strong leadership
- Storytelling and a strong place narrative emerged again.
We will continue to reflect and assess the success factors as we continue the roadshow to Liverpool next, where we’ll be considering: How can regions and nations access finance to drive growth?
Eight ideas for developing long-term partnerships that will drive innovation
We asked some of the UK’s best innovators – many of them members of the CBI’s Thriving Regions & Nations Steering Committee – how more businesses can get involved in developing long-term partnerships that will drive innovation. It boiled down to a series of conversations about the value of strong and long-term partnerships and how best to make them.
Find out about our event partners, Virgin Media O2 Business
Virgin Media Business and O2 Business have joined forces to reimagine connectivity – as a digital partner that helps UK organisations rise to the challenge of the new working dynamic between companies, consumers and their communities.
Virgin Media O2 Business plays a leading role in supporting the public sector and businesses of all sizes to achieve more, from small and medium organisations right up to large enterprise and wholesale partners. This includes offering a variety of managed connectivity services and flexible working capabilities, security, data insight, 5G private networks and cloud solutions, as well as wholesale services to other operators and partners.
Virgin Media O2 Business is committed to using the power of connectivity to share more with communities across the UK, taking action to close the digital divide and helping to build an inclusive, resilient, and low carbon economy.
Check out the CBI's toolkit for successful innovation partnerships
Use this toolkit to access the exclusive advice, guidance and good practice the CBI has developed as part of the Big Fish Little Fish campaign to support new, successful, innovation relationships.
For more cluster resources visit the CBI's Clusters Playbook.