The UK cluster opportunity
Simply put, clusters are concentrations of companies and institutions that benefit from being located together. Clustering with like-minded organisations can help businesses become more productive, and more competitive.
Clustering is a tried and tested method, with examples of success in countries such as Singapore, Taiwan, Israel, as well as regions such as Hamburg in Germany, or Silicon Valley and even Hollywood in the US. Through strong business leadership, university partnership and government support these countries have cultivated world-leading strengths in the technology, digital, manufacturing and creative industries.
Research by the CBI has identified as many as 50 potential cluster developments in the UK. In addition to this, there are over 100 innovation hubs across the UK which could be at the heart of future cluster developments.
It is also expected that the transition to net zero will see the development of new business opportunities and chances for further clustering, for example around net zero manufacturing or industry.
What is in it for your business?
Thriving regions and nations, with strong productivity growth, high wages and improved living standards are good for business.
Clusters provide a favourable operating environment for businesses. This is because businesses that operate in a cluster can benefit from working together, sharing and specialising. In practice, this means businesses that collaborate within a sector and geography become more competitive. And the return on investment for any business that gets involved in cluster development can be significant
Some of the benefits for your business include:
- Attract new talent more easily as the cluster becomes world famous
- Improve your proximity to strong and potentially specialised supply chains
- Help to grow your local and regional business community that can then generate new markets and opportunities for your business, both locally and further afield
- Improve the relationship between your business and universities and colleges to drive innovation and train your workforce
- Shared facilities to test new ideas and products
- Collaborating to shift government policy and regulation to support your business
- The opportunity for a focal point for domestic and overseas investment that can help your business access new markets and grow.
How can you get involved?
The CBI will develop resources to help businesses understand, support and grow through cluster development by establishing a new Centre for Thriving Regions to coordinate the private sector’s commitment to levelling up.
Our Centre will have a new director and be staffed from across the UK’s regions and nations. There will be a SteerCo of leading local, national and multinational businesses, universities and colleges and it will draw on the input and ideas of our 800 strong regional council networks.
Through our centre we will launch a roadshow of events around the country to identify success and failure in business-led growth across UK regions.
The CBI will also launch two demonstrator projects in high-potential cluster regions. These will bring together key players in cluster development and will be used to test and refine our theories so we can develop a new approach to creating thriving regions that can be applied across the UK. The demonstrators will also provide regular briefings and communications for government on what they can do to better support these activities.
The Centre will draw on this work as well as international evidence to write the ‘levelling up playbook’. This will outline how the UK can build globally successful clusters, that are engaged and led by the private sector, and that can secure the business benefits that will come from levelling up.
There are several different opportunities to get involved, including:
- Shape the change your business needs by participating in our roadshow of regional “ThinkIns” with CBI members and key partners to shape the CBI’s work on cluster development
- Embrace the change your business can be receiving exclusive, practical guidance to support and empower your business, helping you strengthen your business model, stay ahead of your competitors, and stay ahead of the curve in an ever-changing economy
- Lead the change and showcase your business by working with our editorial and policy teams to make the CBI your platform, showcasing your expertise, innovation and thought leadership.
Get in touch
Contact the CBI’s Head of Clusters Policy, Hannah Richmond, to find out more about how you can get involved and benefit from cluster development.