The UK’s cities face an unprecedented economic challenge. They need to foster the economic growth necessary to recover from the deepest recession the UK has seen for decades. And they must do this at a time when public spending is dramatically reducing. This is doubly problematic for many British cities. It means far less money will be available to pay for traditional regeneration and economic development projects. But at the same time, it means that cities cannot rely on the expansion of the public sector to provide growth; indeed they will have to rely on the private sector all the more, as the public sector shrinks.
It is no surprise then that cities are looking for cost-effective ways of creating the conditions for economic growth. Encouraging innovation is one way to do this. Previous research has shown that innovation is responsible for the majority of economic growth in developed economies. Innovative places – Silicon
Valley being the exemplar – have in the past benefited from rapid economic growth that many cities would love to emulate.
The administrative framework that cities operate in is also changing. The regional approach to economic development is being replaced by a more local one. ‘Natural economic areas’ are increasingly being called on to take the lead in local economic policy; this policy has found its most immediate expression in the planned creation of Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs). These changes give cities and city-regions an important, but time-limited opportunity to shape policy to their benefit.
It is in this context of an urgent need for growth, a desire to foster innovation, and a shift from regional policy to local policy that the lessons of Manchester’s recent experience are especially relevant.
RICHARD SELINE WAS AN ADVISER TO MANCHESTER IN DEVELOPING THEIR INNOVATION STRATEGY.
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