The stars are aligning for innovation clusters to fuel UK economic growth 

At Plexal, we orchestrate the conditions for organisations to collaborate and innovate towards economic growth and prosperity for communities. This requires connecting with peers from government, industry and academia to help startups and scaleups across our nation to thrive.

In line with this, Plexal CEO Andrew Roughan will take to the stage on Wednesday 20th March to discuss the process of developing innovation districts and place-making at the Connected Places Summit, an event designed to showcase real innovation helping to drive jobs and growth in local and regional economies.

This subject matter speaks soothingly and seamlessly to our overall mission while the event is especially timely, following  a recent announcement by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) in the form of the Innovation Clusters Map. Described as “the most comprehensive picture to date of firm-level innovation activity in the UK,” it aims to highlight where opportunities can be found to unblock the investment pipeline and increase funding fluidity nationwide.

Of the Innovation Clusters Map launch, the Rt Hon Michelle Donelan MP, Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, detailed: “[This] will help policymakers, investors and many more besides to better understand, engage with and invest in the UK’s ecosystem.”

The Secretary of State has set out three goals, acknowledging the need for private-public collaboration to make them happen, including: (1) Increase private investment in innovation clusters (2) Ensure innovation clusters accurately communicate their investible propositions (3) Innovation clusters must benefit people across the UK through jobs and prosperity.

This topic has only continued to gain momentum recently, with the Sunday Times reporting the rise of tech hubs (or innovation clusters), highlighting Cambridge, King’s Cross and the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park – the latter of which is, of course, where Plexal’s head office and innovation workspace can be found on the Here East campus.

The newspaper report is sparked by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s continued assertions that: “We are on track to become the world’s next Silicon Valley” – a statement made during this month’s Budget (and last year at Plexal Stratford as part of Treasury Connect). To this end, the Sunday Times explores our weaknesses but, more positively, our strengths and how best to make the most of them.

For our CEO Andrew, we’re at a unique moment in time. “Productivity growth will define our future prosperity, with the disruption and opportunity caused by science and technology approaching its historical peak,” he says. “The imperative to develop beyond capital cities and distribute wealth is acute. And geo-economics require a clear sovereign intent to ensure progress and resilience.”

And it’s precisely these elements that demonstrate the need for awareness and development of innovation clusters, which shouldn’t be confused with science parks, to grow exponentially. “All too often innovation clusters are mistaken for new real estate developments,” Andrew explains. “Whilst the capital injection and momentum that causes the buildings is helpful, the innovation clusters need architecting, curation, experimentation, collaboration and leadership.”

If any more evidence were required to demonstrate how pressing the need is to back innovation clusters, it’s the latest scaleup-centric campaign from the government, entitled: Science and Tech is our superpower.

This is designed specifically to raise the profile of growth-ready scaleups and encourage investors to get behind them to ensure a boost to long-term economic growth and job creation.  While the UK outpaces the rest of Europe for VC funding, the government cautions investors that the next generation of British unicorns could be forced to look overseas or relocate if the funding pipeline gets blocked.

Investors will be targeted by the marketing campaign in finance hubs including London, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Belfast and Cardiff, spanning billboards, commuter routes and podcasts to ensure there’s every opportunity to “show off regional clusters of innovation excellence from across the UK.”

This is just the first in an ongoing series of content that will roll out around the innovation clusters discussion, so be sure to stay locked into to Plexal’s social channels, including LinkedIn, X and Instagram for more developments.