Urenio Watch Watch: Innovative Cities & Regions

Making Innovative Places

nesta.gifThe first NESTA Summit – Making Innovative Places – highlighted four major pieces of research including: a final report on ‘Innovation in UK Cities’, a final report on ‘Regional leadership for innovation’, a compilation of essays on ‘Rural innovation’ and an Interim report on ‘Path dependency and innovation’.

The reports are available from NESTA website. The short abstracts that are presented below come from each report’s introduction.

Innovation and the city – How innovation has developed in five city-regions

Cities provide an ideal environment for innovation: in the words of this report, they offer proximity, density and variety. However, some cities are more innovative than others, and policymakers have long been concerned with finding out why.

Unpacking this problem requires considerable effort. Cities are complex systems and they exist in the context of regions, nations and international relationships. Moreover, cities themselves rarely innovate ‘“ they are hosts for innovation by people, fi rms and organisations. This means that cities often support innovation indirectly ‘“ and that some of the most important things they do are not thought of as innovation policy at all.

The two overlapping models presented here provide policymakers with a robust way of thinking through these issues. ‘˜Urban hubs’ are large cities that will almost inevitably innovate ‘“ through sheer size, they can bring resources to bear that will result in innovation. But they can’ t be complacent ‘“ innovation in the 21st century is a competitive sport and resting on their laurels might mean that smaller but more developed cities catch up or overtake. The ‘˜local links’ concept provides hope for those cities that don’ t have the endowments of a London, New York or Barcelona. By intelligently combining existing resources, cities can become more than the sum of their parts and punch well above their weight.

Leading Innovation – Building effective regional coalitions for innovation

For regions without the extraordinary assets of Silicon Valley (what we term here ‘˜ordinary’ regions), making the leap from an old-economy paradigm to one based on innovation in services and high-tech industries can seem impossible. But it isn’ t. As we show here, it is made up of a series of smaller, more achievable steps. Two things stand out, however: this isn’ t a fast process; and it requires deep regional knowledge and strong regional leadership.

The case studies presented in this report showcase seven European regions that have successfully made the transition from ordinary to innovative region; and four UK regions that are somewhere along that journey. It concludes by presenting a guide to the ‘˜regional innovation journey’ and an analysis of the types of leadership that may be required along the way.

Rural Innovation

In the past, innovation policy has tended to concentrate on urban areas. This is understandable: simply due to density, much traditional innovation that is countable by R&D expenditure or patent production happens in cities. But 86 per cent of the UK is rural, and those areas are home to almost 20 per cent of the population. Isn’ t it time to look a little more closely at how innovation happens there and how we might stimulate it?

The results are exciting. By gathering a collection of expert researchers, policymakers and practitioners from around the UK, we uncovered a wealth of hitherto unknown innovation ‘“ in SMEs, public services, creative industries and tourism, alongside more traditional rural industries. We also uncovered some common themes and challenges that hold important lessons for policymakers.


NESTA is the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts. It is the largest single endowment devoted exclusively to supporting talent, innovation and creativity in the UK. Its mission is to transform the UK’s capacity for innovation. It invests in early stage companies, inform innovation policy and encourage a culture that helps innovation to flourish.