Innovating places: developing place-based research and innovation funding in the UK

The Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Policy (CSTI) brought together academic experts from different academic perspectives to review the latest evidence and insights, and reflect on implications to provide advice on how UK Research and Innovation can develop effective place-based research and innovation funding programmes to help reduce the significant spatial disparities in economic performance across the UK.

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has been exploring how it can play an active role in contributing to the UK Government’s place agenda within the context of the industrial strategy. Their first initiative in this area is the Strength in Places Fund which seeks to ‘support collaborative programmes based on research and innovation excellence in places right across the UK which can demonstrate a strong impact on local productivity’.  However, they recognise that such an approach to funding research and innovation differs from their traditional focus on excellence wherever it may be located in the UK.


To support their continued development of place-based approaches to research and innovation Research England asked Tomas Ulrichsen and Eoin O'Sullivan at the Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Policy, University of Cambridge, to convene academic experts from different perspectives to address the following question: 


How can UKRI develop place-based funding programmes that invest in local research and innovation systems in order to develop local industrial capabilities in order to enable significantly greater local economic benefits?


Four papers were developed by Philip McCann, Alan Hughes and Tomas Ulrichsen, Michael Kitson, and Michael H. Best and John Bradley. These drew on insights and concepts from a range of academic perspectives including economic geography, innovation systems theories, operations and technology management, industrial and innovation policy, and capability theory and regional economic development.


Following the development of initial draft papers, CSTI hosted a roundtable bringing together the academic experts with senior policy officials to explore the evidence and translate it into practical implications for ‘place-based’ funding programmes. This provided an opportunity for leaders from UKRI and the Department of Business, Energy and Industry Strategy to explore together the rationale for investing in local research and innovation systems to deliver local economic benefits.


To download the papers click on the links below.



Eoin O'Sullivan and Tomas Ulrichsen, with support of the CSTI Policy Links Unit, additionally explored international experiences in developing place-based research and innovation funding programmes. Some initial observations are captured in the following presentation given to the roundtable in July 2018. To download, click on the link below:



Some of the key issues emerging from the suite of papers were highlighted in a presentation to the workshop on place-based industrial strategy organised by the Bennett Institute and the Centre for Science and Policy at the University of Cambridge in July 2019. To download this presentation, click on the link below.



The insights and implications emerging from these papers will be brought together in a summary paper by Tomas Ulrichsen and Eoin O'Sullivan to be published in the autumn of 2019. 

For further information please contact:

Tomas Ulrichsen

T: +44 (0) 1223 339 741


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