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Innovation districts, partnerships, and communities of innovation

What is the role of place in fostering economic and social development? Research Assistant Daniel Williams writes about the Scotland Productivity Forum’s panel discussion on the issue, and which featured best practices, recommendations and future strategic directions, held as part of National Productivity Week 2023.

Place is a key part of shaping innovation ecosystems and driving productivity. By fostering inclusive development, ensuring long-term resilience, promoting entrepreneurship, and addressing financial gaps, communities can harness the power of place to fuel sustainable and inclusive economic growth. The panel discussed how to translate these insights into actionable strategies that pave the way for vibrant, innovative, and resilient communities.

Key Themes

  1. Innovation and Place Connection: Place-specific strategies, such as innovation districts and hubs, can drive economic growth, foster community engagement, and promote a culture of innovation.
  2. Challenges of Gentrification: Inclusive development should benefit the entire community, including traditionally underserved and socially deprived areas. The challenges of gentrification often accompany urban development and innovation-led growth.
  3. Long-Term Vision and Continuity: A long-term perspective in planning and executing innovation and productivity strategies is needed, looking beyond immediate political cycles and focusing on sustainable, multi-decade strategies that align with environmental objectives and community well-being.
  4. Cultivating an Entrepreneurial Culture: Nurturing an entrepreneurial mindset across all age groups is critical, from school-age children to the elderly, so it can leverage the wealth of wisdom and experience present in communities.
  5. Financial and Infrastructural Support: Providing adequate financial resources and infrastructure to support innovation, especially in the early stages, is key. This includes addressing the ‘valley of death’ in funding and ensuring that entrepreneurs have access to the necessary capital to bring their innovations to market.

Actionable insights

The panel agreed on the following recommendations for creating innovation districts:

Foster Inclusive Development

  • Develop and implement place-based innovation strategies that benefit all community members.
  • Engage with local communities early in the development process to ensure that projects meet their needs and aspirations.
  • Promote community wealth building by focusing on retaining wealth within local areas.

Building Long-Term Resilience

  • Advocate for long-term planning and investment in innovation and productivity, transcending political cycles.
  • Encourage public and private sectors to adopt a long-term vision, emphasizing sustainable and inclusive growth.

Promoting Entrepreneurship and Innovation

  • Enhance entrepreneurship education at all levels, from schools to universities, to instil an entrepreneurial mindset.
  • Provide targeted support for early-stage entrepreneurs, including access to finance, mentorship, and co-working spaces.
  • Celebrate and promote local success stories to inspire future entrepreneurs and build a culture of innovation.

Addressing Financial Gaps

  • Implement policies and initiatives to bridge the funding gap for early-stage innovations, particularly in green tech and other sectors crucial for sustainable development.
  • Encourage the involvement of business angels and venture capitalists in supporting early-stage ventures.

The session was held on 1 December 2023 and hosted by the University of Glasgow marking the final event of a three-day series as part of the UK’s National Productivity Week.

This blog is the final in a series of four on the Scotland Productivity Forum’s events hosted as part of National Productivity Week in 2023.