Civic leaders urge greater investment in R&D

Leaders from across local and civic government, as well as universities and research institutions, have signed a manifesto calling on Whitehall to provide more support to the knowledge economy to ‘level up’ the regions.

The 10-point manifesto was sent to business secretary Alok Sharma this week, with signatories including Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and Liverpool City Region Mayor Steve Rotheram, as well as Lord Jim O’Neill, vice-chair of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership; Dame Nancy Rothwell, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Manchester, and Colin Sinclair, chief executive of Knowledge Quarter Liverpool and Sciontec Liverpool, among others.

The manifesto follows publication of a report commissioned by Bruntwood SciTech, the joint venture between developer Bruntwood and fund manager Legal & General, into the current state of the UK’s innovation infrastructure.

The 10-point manifesto is based on the recommendations of the report – Place Matters: Innovation and Growth in the UK, by consultancy Metro Dynamics – which include the creation of a national innovation policy, a target for every UK region to have a centre of world-class research excellence by 2040, and greater collaboration between UK cities, in order to boost science and technology innovation.

Businesses, with support from the public sector, must be given more powerful tools to be able to convert investment in research and development and innovation, into jobs and growth, the manifesto states.

Nigel Wilson, chief executive of Legal & General, said: “The UK is world-leading in scientific research and discovery. It has an army of talented tech entrepreneurs. But we consistently fail to turn enough new ideas into new jobs and growth.

“The Government’s commitment to raise R&D spending to 2.4% of [gross domestic product] by 2027 is welcome, but without support for places to develop their innovation ecosystems over the long term, meeting the target will still miss the point.

“[The] manifesto, with the backing of so many of the UK’s leading figures, provides a roadmap for the UK to continue to thrive.”

Chris Oglesby, chief executive of Bruntwood, added: “It can take 20 years to develop a successful innovation district as we have seen in Manchester’s Oxford Road corridor.

“But this is just one of a handful in the UK today and we believe there is the potential for one in every region. We can’t afford to lose any more time and risk falling further behind on the global stage. Yes, we need more R&D investment, but of equal importance is creating thriving locations that attract talent and…can support innovation-led activities.”

The 10-point manifesto calls for:

  • a new national innovation policy
  • review of the nation’s innovation infrastructure
  • a focus on ‘translational’ research – to capture more of the value created by the UK’s research and seize the commercial opportunities they represent
  • every UK region to have at least one world-class centre of research excellence – UK R&D expenditure has focused on the same regions for too long, with more than 50% of funding going to London and the South East.
  • creater support to enable cities and regions adopt a collaborative approach and global mindset
  • attitudes to be transformed so that businesses back innovation and the public sector and business truly promote innovation activities
  • empowered civic leaders, through devolution of power, responsibility and decision making away from Whitehall
  • the development of alternative investment models to fund R&D ‘placemaking’ such as innovation districts
  • a ‘power of three’ approach – giving equal weight to innovation districts, place ecosystems and innovation ecosystems when developing long-term business and government strategies
  • people and place to be at the heart of innovation strategies – so that places can be transformed to attract and retain talent.

The full list of signatories is as follows:

Lord Jim O’Neill, vice-chair, Northern Powerhouse Partnership

Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice Chancellor, University of Manchester

Sir Richard Leese, leader, Manchester City Council

Andy Street, Mayor, West Midlands Combined Authority

Sir Howard Bernstein, former chief executive Manchester City Council

Sir Mike Deegan CBE, chief executive Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust

Andy Burnham, Mayor, Greater Manchester Combined Authority

Tony Reeves, chief executive, Liverpool City Council

Professor Malcolm Press, vice-chancellor, Manchester Metropolitan University

Colin Sinclair, chief executive, Knowledge Quarter Liverpool and Sciontec Liverpool

Eunice Simmons, vice-chancellor, University of Chester

Annette Bramley, director, N8 Partnership

David Lalloo, director Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and professor of tropical medicine

Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority

Martin Farrington, director City Development, Leeds City Council

Henri Murison, director, Northern Powerhouse Partnership

Julie Wagner, president, The Global Institute on Innovation Districts

Stephen Cochrane, partnership manager, Oxford Road Corridor

Jim Duvall, chief executive, UK Science Parks Association

Peter Lusty, co-founder and chief executive, Manchester Tech Trust

Andrew Cooper, chief executive, Leeds BID

Tim Pile, chair Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership

Paul Faulkner, chief executive, Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce

Philip Cox, chief executive, Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership

Dr Peter Jackson, executive director, AMR Centre

Emma Degg, chief executive, North West Business Leadership Team

Sandy Needham, chief executive of the West and North Yorkshire Chamber

Andrew Digwood, president, York and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce.

Amanda Beresford, president, Leeds Chamber of Commerce

Suzanne Watson, president, Bradford Chamber of Commerce

Kersten England, chief executive, Bradford Council

Dr Seamus O’Neill, chief executive, Northern Health Science Alliane

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