Research and innovation (R&I) and place

UK government is committed to increasing UK investment in R&D to 2.4% of GDP by 2027. This commitment is coupled with a growing recognition of the links between investment in research and innovation (R&I) and economic growth, both nationally and at a local level.  But while there is a reasonable understanding of the links between investment in R&I and national economic growth, outcomes at a local level are variable and complicated.  A better understanding of those relationships is important, particularly in the context of commitments to levelling-up across the UK. 

Against this backdrop, SQW was commissioned by UKRI in 2021 to examine how and why the characteristics of areas affect the success of UKRI’s levers in supporting and stimulating R&I, and vice versa. In light of this, we also considered what might be done to help investment in R&I contribute to better place-based outcomes.

The study used a predominantly qualitative research methodology.  Informed by a literature review, it involved developing a Theory of Change which set out how R&I investment is expected – in general terms – to influence place-based outcomes. The Theory of Change was then tested, refined and developed further through the main research phase.  This involved a series of case studies which examined seven UKRI interventions, seven local areas across the UK, and innovation ecosystems across three international comparators.

The study was designed to build on existing evidence and to prompt discussion and debate.  The output from the study included a series of specific considerations for UKRI and wider policy makers at both national and local levels.  The study also generated frameworks and concepts which should assist future thinking, discussions, and decisions about the implications of place on R&I support, and vice versa. The full report can be downloaded here.