Science and Innovation Audits: Wave 2

On 21st September 2017, BEIS published the second wave of Science and Innovation Audit (SIA) reports. The first wave was published in November 2016. Together these provide a compelling evidence base covering much of the UK that can and should inform the UK's emerging Industrial Strategy.

SIAs map the specific innovation and scientific strengths of local areas, and aim to catalyse a new approach to sub-national economic development, enabling local consortia (including businesses, universities, local authorities, LEPs and wider stakeholders) to focus on analysing their strengths, and identify mechanisms to realise their full economic potential and boost productivity.

Throughout spring 2017, SQW supported five of the eight second wave consortia in developing their SIAs: Bioeconomy of the North of England; East of England; Innovation South; Leeds City Region; and Oxfordshire Transformative Technologies Alliance. The summary reports from all of the eight second wave consortia are available here.

In 2016, SQW worked with three of the five first-wave consortia: the Midlands Engine; Sheffield and Lancashire; and Greater Manchester and East Cheshire. All five of the Wave One SIA reports, including the three that SQW supported, are available to download here.

We have therefore worked closely with eight of 13 BEIS-sponsored SIAs (plus several other locally-initiated ones). From these, we offer three immediate comments:

  • SIAs have precipitated – and responded to – a renewed appreciation of the role of place in the functioning of innovation ecosystems; and they provide some crucial insights. Skills are critical, particularly against the broader backdrop of Industry 4.0. But infrastructure matters too – both in terms of connectivity (including digital) and in terms of physical provision (especially where it supports clustering processes).
  • The SIAs have pointed again to the importance of recognizing that the UK's science and innovation assets must be understood in their global context: knowledge, capital and labour (people) are internationally mobile, and it is on this basis that strengths and weaknesses within the UK should be judged (and the process of Brexit should be navigated).
  • The SIA "process" has been as (if not more) important than the "product". It has led to a renewed recognition that working across boundaries (sectoral, institutional and geographical) really matters and it is this that unlocks possibilities, some of which are potentially transformational (in terms of societal and economic impacts).

These are three themes/insights that really ought to appear in the UK's Industrial Strategy. They were implicit in the Green Paper – but they need to be pulled out more strongly, and then acted upon. In developing these, the depth of evidence and insight which is now set out in 13 SIA reports – which together cover most of the geography of the UK – ought really to provide a compelling evidence base and an invaluable resource.

For more information, please contact Christine Doel or Luke Delahunty