Hubs of Innovation: a Playbook for Place Leaders

This handbook by The Business of Cities for Connected Places Catapult focuses on innovation strategies for competitiveness and how places can host and deliver innovation that can drive national productivity and local well-being. The handbook is aimed at leaders, decision-makers and place champions.

Date added 24 September 2021
Last updated 24 September 2021

*This resource is about place-based innovation. It is not specifically about the High Street, but has been included in response to requests for more studies/information about this topic, as well as linking to innovation and adaptability priorities for High Street vitality and viability*.

This handbook by The Business of Cities for Connected Places Catapult focuses on innovation strategies for competitiveness and how places can host and deliver innovation that can drive national productivity and local well-being. The handbook is aimed at leaders, decision-makers and place champions for uses including (p. 4):

  • Get more innovation places right from the start.
  • Honestly reflect on the merits and limitations of a given place opportunity.
  • Develop robust and patient strategies grounded in good international practice.
  • Understand what is needed from others, and wanted by prospective partners.
  • Be ready for when things don’t go according to plan.

The handbook starts by pointing out that UK based innovation places are unique and different from other places and that the pandemic has fuelled the need for places to adapt and for companies, institutions and entrepreneurs to be more flexible in the ways they operate, especially in digital and technological terms. The handbook continues by mapping out current innovation places across the UK and six stages outlining the pathway to delivering whole place return for an innovation place. Each place needs to evaluate which stage they are at. The six stages including indicators are as follows (p. 30):

  1. Eco system enablers

Indicators:

  • Scale and specialisation of advanced industries is limited, still imperfectly defined, or immature.
  • Challenges connecting to markets, attracting risk investors and larger companies.
  • Not yet decisive agreement about where or what the ‘innovation play’ is in the region.
  1. Audit

Indicators:

  • A clear opportunity and niche has arisen that demands robust assessment.
  • Still figuring out the precise spatial economy of the place and wider region.
  • Knowledge of the full set of assets and institutions is patchy.
  • The place profile and persuasion of key players has only recently begun.
  1. Setup

Indicators:

  • Place has reached a minimum basic threshold of companies, institutions, and demand.
  • Currently crafting the USP for the place and looking to get buy-in to the vision.
  • First new-cycle innovation investments are agreed, and 1 or more catalytic sites are underway.
  1. Foundation

Indicators:

  • One or more centres of gravity have picked up real momentum.
  • An adjusted governance model is settling in.
  • Collaborative projects and partnerships have been prototyped and implemented.
  • The place’s flagship status is enhanced through discoveries, signature tenants, and new forms of sharing and participating.
  1. Growth

Indicators:

  • A tight consensus exists among core stakeholders.
  • Seeking additional capacity to match larger stakeholder demand and expanded place competences.
  • Clear opportunities to build the place’s international profile.
  • An imperative to support sub-locations and communities not prioritised in earlier phases.
  1. Critical mass

Indicators:

  • Place has begun to host a full spectrum of services and capabilities.
  • Scale of innovation has spilled over into other locations, requiring clear alignment and more significant tools and investment.
  • Storytelling, place DNA, ambassadors and alumni are all to the fore.
  • Inclusive innovation mission is established across all organisations.

The handbook also includes a case study reflecting each of these stages and putting real life examples into context.