This week NESTA released Innovation and the city: How innovation has developed in five city-regions. This was written for NESTA by the Centre for Cities.
This report presents the research findings from the Centre for Cities’s research project on cities and innovation conducted during 2007 and was sponsored by NESTA. The research question asked why innovation is concentrated in and around certain cities, and what role characteristics or processes present in cities play in enabling and driving innovation.
Centre for Cities designed a framework for urban innovation factors and processes which identifies the main components of an urban innovation system. To test out this framework, a series of case studies undertaken including the London fashion design sector, the engineering design sector in Coventry, the ICT sector in Reading and the biotechnology sectors in Dundee and Dortmund.
The report found that:
- City-regions matter for innovation – many of the processes and activities necessary to create, develop and sustain innovation occur at the city-region level.
- This reinforces the case for considering further devolution of policy and financial powers towards city-regions.
- Firms are at the heart of urban innovation – they drive private sector innovation.
- The best developed innovation systems are those with the most well-established sectors and clusters.
- Cities offer firms excellent access to markets and markets drive and sustain commercially successful innovation. Market access is one of the main factors in influencing firms’ location decisions.
- Urban assets (especially skills and transport infrastructure) play a critical and under-appreciated role in supporting innovative activity.
- Innovation processes differ between different sectors. Some factors are more important than others. This means that we need to better tailor the role of public institutions to the innovation challenges and opportunities present in each city-region. Local flexibility is appropriate.
- Urban factors support network formation and development. There is a policy role in developing and improving networks where this is needed.
- Government legislation shapes innovation either directly through investment in scientific research and Higher Education, or more indirectly through specifying new health and safety or financial rules for businesses. So, urban innovation partners and stakeholders should closely monitor the likely impacts and opportunities of legislative developments.