Department for Business Innovation and Skills
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Government urged to prioritise place-based-investment to increase national productivity

Leading innovation districts from across the UK have joined together to urge government, cities and city regions to channel investment in to mature and growing innovation districts.

The UK Innovation Districts Group (IDG) and consulting and engineering firm, Arup, have released a report outlining the importance of these centres to the UK economy. The IDG was established in October 2017 and represents six major innovation districts across the UK – in Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, London and Manchester.

According to the report greater investment in innovation districts will help accelerate productivity growth in the UK. Specifically, it will support more inclusive growth by prioritising diversity, education, skills and social networks to create fair and thriving local economies and is critical to delivering the UK’s Industrial Strategy. Innovation districts are urban areas with networks of knowledge producing organisations such as universities, research bodies, teaching hospitals, cultural institutions and knowledge-intensive businesses. They bring together innovators, entrepreneurs, researchers, creatives, knowledge workers and investors to collaborate, compare and compete, creating the conditions for business growth.

The report, which marks the first collaborative project for the UK Innovation Districts Group, looks at the progress made by its districts so far: factors for success, issues to be overcome and the priorities and opportunities for the future. Based on these findings, it sets out a series of recommendations for national and local Government, promoters and institutions including:

  • Government and cities and city regions should prioritise investment in innovation districts to support the delivery of the Industrial Strategy
  • Innovation districts should build on their existing work to help lead the way in increasing productivity through inclusive growth
  • Innovation districts should work together more closely as a national network
  • Cities, city regions and innovation districts should continue to secure capital investment in public spaces, physical and digital infrastructure, and new buildings in innovation districts
  • Government, LEPs and Combined Authorities and cities should invest in developing the hard and soft networks to support business growth in innovation districts.

Councillor Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council said: “This report highlights the importance of Innovation Districts across the UK, and crucially the support that is needed to ensure progress continues to be made in this important area. As part of our own Leeds Innovation District, we are working with key partners, including the University of Leeds, Leeds Beckett University and the Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust, building on our world-class research and development assets, strong network of innovators and entrepreneurs, and new cutting-edge incubator facilitates to help new businesses develop and deliver growth and investment to the city.”

Tom Bridges, Director at Arup said: “This report shows that innovation districts are emerging as new urban districts that can help UK cities create, scale up and attract fast-growing firms which will drive more productive and inclusive economic growth. In the context of the UK’s sluggish productivity growth, government and cities should prioritise investment in innovation districts as part of a place-based approach to delivering the industrial strategy.”

Emma Frost, Chair of the UK Innovation Districts Group said: “Innovation Districts are reshaping and rejuvenating major urban areas around the UK. This inaugural report highlights the real potential that innovation districts have to increase productivity and ensure local economies across the UK are more economically inclusive and prosperous.”

The full report: UK Innovation Districts and Knowledge Quarters – Driving More Productive Growth, can be read in full online at

The UK Innovation Districts Group brings together some of the UK’s most significant and progressive Innovation District projects: Glasgow West End and Waterfront Innovation District; Leeds Innovation District; Knowledge Quarter Liverpool (KQ Liverpool); London’s Knowledge Quarter and Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park; and Manchester Oxford Road Corridor.

Chaired by Emma Frost, Head of Communities and Business Regeneration and Community Partnerships at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, the group has been collaborating for the last 12 months and produced this report to spark a national conversation on the form and function of UK Innovation Districts as well as provide a useful tool for other emerging urban areas wanting to embrace this growth model. The group would also like to invite other Innovation Districts in major cities, which are seeking to build on their genuine world-class research and development strengths, to engage with them.

The UK Innovation Districts and Knowledge Quarters report was researched and produced by the global consulting and engineering firm, Arup. Arup is committed to investment in research and foresight about cities and the built environment, and this report forms part of that wider commitment.

Arup is the creative force at the heart of many of the world’s most prominent projects in the built environment and across the industry. Working in over 140 countries Arup has more than 14,000 planners, designers, engineers and consultants delivering innovative projects across the world with creativity and passion.

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