Enabling local capability through university collaboration

Paper abstract draft, for comment

The abolition of the UK Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) by the Conservative – Liberal Democrat coalition in 2012, and the disbanding of the Local Authorities Research Council Initiative (LARCI) left a vacuum in the support of process, service and product innovation for local authorities and Small to Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs). Catapult Centres were launched by the Technology Strategy Board (now Innovate UK) in the same year, with the purpose of promoting technology innovation nationally, and Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) were proposed around that time by BIS and DCLG. An un-templated model without core funding, LEPs were envisaged as a means to local economic growth through encouraging collaboration between businesses, local authorities and universities. A gap in capability remained however, exacerbated by the financial strictures placed by central government on local authorities, while increasing their responsibilities. Attrition through cost-cutting became apparent in expert, in-house analyst support across a range of disciplines. Also, SMEs lost access to innovation funding from RDAs, although Innovate UK introduced Innovation Vouchers, which can be redeemed with knowledge providers. Various initiatives have arisen to close the gaps, one of which, the Creative Centre model, is a development by an industrial and university partnership.  This is based on making university equipment and technical support available to SME collaborators, together with a hub for time-shared Knowledge Transfer Partners (KTPs); it is predicated on the existence of underutilised equipment and resources.


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