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Geography of Innovation Clusters in the UK image

Geography of Innovation Clusters in the UK

Kevin Tang, The University of Oxford

I have been working with the Innovation Caucus and Innovate UK on a project analysing the geography of innovation clusters in the UK. Through this work, I have had the opportunity to meet with and learn from several researchers across various government departments, working on a wide range of topics related to innovation and technology, data analysis, and business development. It has been a very interesting experience to meet with and learn more about the work of other researchers and colleagues in the government, as I greatly appreciate applying my academic research background in economics and statistics to contribute to research on very tangible topics that have implications for public policy.

Over the course of my internship, I have given presentations to Regional Managers and other colleagues at Innovate UK and to members of the Innovation Caucus team. From these presentations, I have received very positive and constructive feedback on my work that has contributed to the research process. The feedback has been helpful in learning about different methods and priorities in presenting research for academic versus government audiences. I really appreciate the advice and support from the Innovation Caucus team in these presentations and meetings.

From the meetings, I have had the opportunity to meet with other colleagues working in related areas, learn about their work, and learn about other data resources and methods used at Innovate UK. Colleagues outside of the Innovation Caucus have offered their advice in guiding my research project and helping me to identify other data resources that have assisted in the research process and in formulating the best way to construct a dataset to identify clusters of innovation.

On the project itself, I have extensively studied methods of spatial and network analysis in my PhD, but had not actually found an application of the methods for policy. My initial interest in working with the Innovation Caucus was to conduct this type of data-based geographic and spatial research on a topic, such as identifying clusters of innovation in the UK. From working on this project, I have learned a lot about characteristics that make an innovation cluster, why clusters of innovation matter for economic growth, how they are defined in business and in public policy, and how to use new methods of spatial and network analysis to develop measures of innovation clustering in large datasets of research collaborations and financing.

From this project I used the Innovate UK public dataset to build a graph of innovation collaborations across the UK, and I developed measures to identify clustering based on network analysis of the collaborative innovation graph. This analysis can be combined with other datasets to build larger, more complex, and more detailed graphs, to identify potential clusters of innovation. In my report, I highlight the research process in determining the methods and measures of cluster identification, how the dataset was structured and compiled, and how the report and the results form the foundation of analysis on the identification of clusters of innovation in the UK that can be further developed in future research.

For further information about this internship, please email Howard Partridge, Regional Manager – East of England at Innovate UK,

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Catching the Wave: Social Science & Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund

Monday 20 May 2019, 10:00 – 16:00

The Edge, Endcliffe, 34 Endcliffe Crescent, Sheffield. S10 3ED.

The Innovation Caucus is hosting a free event to explore how the social sciences can contribute to the Industrial Strategy. This event will help social science researchers to engage with the Industrial Strategy and ensure they’re well positioned to participate in calls under the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF).

‘Catching the Wave’ is open to all social scientists who are keen to engage with the Industrial Strategy. With numerous calls live under Wave 2 of the ISCF, and the priority themes of Wave 3 now announced, this will be a valuable and timely opportunity to generate ideas and build connections.

To start the day with presentation about the development of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund we have Dan Hodges (Deputy Director – Strategy, Innovate UK) as our first keynote speaker. Dan will reflect on the “Industrial Strategy and the Social Sciences in ISCF Wave 3”. This will be followed by a panel discussion exploring ‘How the Social Sciences can add value’, where there will be an opportunity to put your questions to panel members, including Sarah Hodgetts (Deputy Director, Department of Business, Energy and the Industrial Strategy and Ben Peace (Head of Manufacturing at the Knowledge Transfer Network) (tbc).

After a networking lunch, we’ll convene round table and plenary discussion, to explore opportunities for social scientists to collaborate and engage with the ISCF. There will be groups focusing on each of the grand challenge areas (Ageing Society, Artificial Intelligence and Data, Clean Growth and Future of Mobility) and related to the shortlisted ISCF Wave 3 challenges. The session will focus on identifying how to frame and articulate the value and offer of social science research when engaging with partners from business and other STEM disciplines around the Industrial Strategy.

The final session we are delighted to have Melanie Knetsch (Deputy Director of Impact and Innovation, Economic & Social Research Council) who will outline the “ESRC’s Business Engagement Vision”. Mel leads on ESRC’s strategic knowledge exchange and innovation activities to ensure its research portfolio is visible to potential users, and has been instrumental in ensuring social science is the golden thread woven through the ISCF. This will be followed by the second panel discussion, focusing on Experiences of ISCF and the Industrial Strategy’. Panel members, including Professor Jacqueline Glass (University College London), Professor Simon Collinson (University of Birmingham), Professor Lucy Kimbell (University of the Arts London) (tbc) and Professor Katy Mason (Lancaster University). This group of academics will share their experiences and perspectives on working on projects linked to the Industrial Strategy and the ISCF.

This event is for ALL social scientists, and we hope you can join us in Sheffield for an interesting day with a practical focus aimed at generating insights and sharing lessons to help the social sciences gear up for future ISCF funding calls.

To avoid missing out, register now at


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Mainstreaming Diversity & Inclusion

Alina Kadyrova, the University of Manchester

Over the past decade, the issue of diversity and inclusion (D&I) in innovation has received significant attention from policy-makers and academics. This internship focused on the practical attempts of policy-makers and innovation agencies to tackle this issue and their potential to make a visible and measurable impact.

Innovate UK has commissioned various projects aimed at promoting the inclusion of under-represented groups and boosting innovation activity in the UK. Recently, the agency commissioned a Global Review of Diversity and Inclusion in Business Innovation, which explored a variety of programs and policies aimed at the inclusion of different groups in innovation processes and sought to identify how the UK can adapt the good practice of other countries. Short-term projects and longer-term policies of ten countries were pre-selected and reviewed in a report produced by the London School of Economics (LSE).

During the third year of my PhD, I undertook a six-month internship to explore the findings from this report in more depth, working alongside Dr Emily Nott from Innovate UK and Professor Tim Vorley and Dr Katy Wing from the Innovation Caucus. They have provided excellent guidance and support to me over the duration of the work.

We decided to focus on D&I policies and practices of innovation agencies aimed at increasing the participation of women, people with disabilities and ethnic minorities. These practices were analysed by means of semi-structured interviews with project participants, innovation agency representatives and through documentary analysis.

The research revealed a strong focus on gender equality issues in specific regions. For example, most of the D&I programmes and policies of the Northern European countries have had a sole focus on gender, with other equality issues relatively neglected, while the countries of Eastern Europe, such as Poland, prioritised overall innovation development, rather than focusing on specific under-represented groups. The analysis revealed two major gaps in current D&I practices:

  • Lack of efforts to promote the inclusion of under-represented groups other than women as potential innovators;
  • Absence of systematic frameworks and practices applied at different levels to monitor progress on D&I issues, including data collection and evaluation of impacts.

Northern European countries, such as Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands were good practice examples in terms of the mainstreaming of diversity and inclusion principles across all activities. Initiatives implemented by Sweden and Norway, such as organising internal workshops on gender issues, where employees share their experiences and learn new perspectives on dealing with inequality, demonstrate that top-down, sustained, intersectoral governmental initiatives, requiring institutions to track progress and report back to the government, can contribute to success in tackling the problem of gender inequality.

More programs targeting ethnic minorities, disabled people or other excluded groups are needed. However, over the longer term, inclusion activities should ideally be embedded into the operations of all actors, without necessarily requiring a dedicated programme or budget. This mainstreaming of D&I issues requires more radical system change, that tackles the roots of exclusion, rather than masking its consequences.

To conclude, this internship provided an excellent and unique experience of working on diversity and inclusion at the intersection between policy-making and academic knowledge. The discussions with Innovate UK and with the representatives of overseas innovation agencies provided me with an additional perspective on my own PhD topic on social innovations in Europe. I would like to thank Tim, Emily and Katy for this opportunity and for the mentorship they provided.

For further information about this internship, please email Emily Nott, Lead for Diversity and Inclusion Programmes at Innovate UK,


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PhD Internship – Modelling RoI at the firm level

Applications are invited from highly motivated PhD candidates to undertake a three to six month internship to develop a stream of work on identifying and modelling the returns from research and development (R&D) activity at the firm level, in conjunction with the Knowledge Transfer Network.

Return on Investment (RoI) models are most commonly available at the programme level, i.e. for large scale interventions, but less is known about the RoI of individual interventions / investments made at the firm level. However, firms face decisions as to whether to invest in R&D and (assuming rationality) will consider expected costs and benefits and calculate the expected rate of return. Firms can then consider their marginal rate of return and the marginal costs of capital (opportunity cost) to determine their optimal level of R&D investment (David et al. 2000).

Innovate UK is looking for a PhD Intern to provide insight on the returns on investment of R&D activity and to develop a model/tool to be used to determine the rate of return of R&D activity at the firm level. This will involve a desk-based review of available literature and approaches to measuring the RoI of R&D initiatives at the firm level. The work will provide Innovate UK and the Knowledge Transfer Network with greater insight on the determinants of firm level output of R&D activities, so as to better understand the micro-level determinants of private sector R&D. The aim is to support firm level decision making and ultimately be able to promote the private support of R&D activities. Based on the literature, the model should take into consideration opportunity costs, time lags, duration, depreciation and discounting of R&D investments.

Person Specification

The intern will need to have:

  • the ability to work with academics and engage with academic debates to identify insights and make connections across research and policy;
  • a broad understanding of the social sciences, and appreciation of how the social sciences can contribute to the economy and society;
  • an interest in how social science disciplines can be applied to generate insights for businesses and innovation.

It is also desirable that the candidate will have:

  • an interest in and/or experience of conducting previous research into the impact of innovation activities;
  • the ability to synthesize research findings into outputs for non-academic audiences, e.g. using infographics;
  • some microeconomic modelling experience;
  • good understanding of the complex R&D landscape of private vs. social returns;
  • excellent communication skills and the ability to work in a client-focused role.

Dates of Internship

By agreement, but we are aiming for a start date of 1st April, 2019. The internship will need to be completed by 30th September 2019.


There is scope to accommodate flexible working arrangements, although the intern will be expected to attend meetings in London (and potentially in Swindon and Sheffield) on an ad hoc basis.

Funding and time commitment

A total of £4,500 will be paid in equal monthly instalments over the agreed duration of the internship (e.g. a £1,500 per month stipend for 3 months, if working on the internship on a full time basis; or a £750 per month stipend for 6 months if working part time). Travel to meetings and other agreed expenses will be reimbursed in addition. This flexibility is designed to accommodate restrictions on working hours for international students. The funds will be transferred to the university at which the PhD student is registered and the stipend and travel expenses will be paid by the PhD student’s home institution.

Application Process

Please send a letter outlining your interest in the project and position as a PhD intern with the Innovation Caucus, and details of how your skills and experience make you well suited to undertake the internship.

Applications should be sent to by noon on Friday March 15th 2019.

Please ensure that the university at which you are registered agrees to support your application.

Shortlisted candidates will be invited to an interview, which may be conducted online. The provisional date for interviews is Tuesday 26th March, 2019.

For informal enquiries about the technical requirements for this internship, please contact Professor Tim Vorley, For enquiries about the application process, please contact Dr Katy Wing,

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Overcoming disadvantage: Millennials doing it for themselves

Innovation Caucus Internship – Steve Workman

Oxford Brookes doctoral research student, Steve Workman, recently completed a three month internship with Innovate UK. Steve won the internship through an open competition run by the Innovation Caucus and chaired by Professor Tim Vorley, Associate Dean and Professor of Entrepreneurship at Sheffield University Management School. Steve’s application involved writing an essay, entitled ‘Millennials Do it On Demand: Millennials, Innovation and Decision Making’, which contrasted the more immediate, technology enabled decision-making of Millennials with that of Baby Boomers and Generation X.

Working alongside Dr Emily Nott, Head of Diversity and Inclusion Programmes at Innovate UK, Steve made a valuable contribution to the ‘Ideas Mean Business’ programme, which encourages Millennials to innovate and take an entrepreneurial route into employment, by starting their own businesses. Steve produced a series of papers, including ‘Mapping the Support Landscape for Young Entrepreneurs from Disadvantaged and Diverse Backgrounds’ and ‘Millennials: The Role of Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Combating Disadvantage’.

This internship provided Steve with the opportunity to work on a live, leading edge project, aimed a tackling an important social problem. Commenting on his internship Steve stated:

‘In my professional career I did a lot of work with organisations like Business in the Community and the Prince’s Trust, to encourage young people into employment with major businesses. Innovate UK’s ‘Ideas mean Business’ project took a new and potentially more rewarding approach, by supporting young people to develop their own businesses. It was fascinating to gain insights into both the enablers and the barriers facing young people. I really enjoyed working with the Innovate UK and Innovation Caucus teams and seeing my work shape the development of the project. I would certainly recommend this type of internship, which broadens one’s academic and business horizons’.

This is an excellent example of how internships can add value to the work of Innovate UK, by aligning with and feeding directly into their programmes of activity. Emily Nott, who supervised Steve’s internship, said:

‘This placement gave us much needed extra capacity to undertake an in-depth piece of research. Steve brought an alternative perspective and generated valuable new insights into how entrepreneurship and our Young Innovators programme can help young people overcome disadvantage by turning their ideas into successful businesses.’

There were direct benefits from this internship for the young people participating in the programme, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, who gained from Innovate UK’s deeper insight into their specific barriers and support needs. There is also potential to derive wider societal impacts from supporting young people, who may struggle with traditional employment, to go down a self-employment route.

Economic benefits include the potential cost savings from reducing the numbers of young people who are not in sustainable employment, as well as the multiplier effects of creating exciting, cutting edge new businesses.

This internship also highlights the potential for Innovate UK to engage with a wider range of stakeholders, increasing its visibility and impact, by exchanging perspectives and expertise. There is further potential for the Innovation Caucus to help broker relationships between Innovate UK, academia, businesses, public sector agencies and the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector.

For further information about this internship, please email Emily Nott, Head of Diversity and Inclusion Programmes at Innovate UK,

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Developing a framework for innovation intermediation

Innovation Caucus internship – Matjaz Vidmar

My exciting journey with the Innovation Caucus started one rainy morning in Spring 2017, when by chance I spotted an advertisement for internship applicants doing the rounds over email. This was followed by an email from my supervisor, asking all of his PhD students if we have seen the call and whether we were interested. Not being someone who declines any opportunity, my reply was immediate – yes!

Having found out about the Innovation Caucus and its work some months previously, when putting together a notice for the departmental newsletter about our engagement with policy, I was really excited by the opportunity to further translate my research interest into useful knowledge for policy-making. Having applied and made it through to the interview, I was ecstatic! Speaking to Tim and his team was interesting and inspiring, and once I was offered the internship, it took even less time than before to say “yes” and accept it.

As I am really passionate about my PhD research topic (social aspects of technology development and innovation) and my subject matter (Space Industry – yes, the stuff “up there”) I took quite some convincing to take on new challenges within the Innovation Caucus brief. In part, this was because I really wanted to create a new space of shared knowledge and sense-making, i.e. to challenge the theoretical concepts with empirical findings and policy realities – and I could only envisage doing so within the topics about which I was already somewhat knowledgeable.

However, in discussion with Innovate UK and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), I did eventually reshape my interest into developing a broader framework and typology of innovation intermediation in any geographically bound sectoral system of innovation. This was of value to Innovate UK, since it supported the ongoing development of their portfolio of Catapults and Knowledge Transform Networks, as well as other projects and policies.

This experience was a great lesson for me, not only in working with and delivering for a policy-making system, but also in expanding my own research interests into domains I did initially find uncomfortable. Presenting the headline findings of this work at one of the most prestigious innovation conferences in the world, DRUID (2018), helped me appreciate the power of broader generalisation of academic knowledge, in order to achieve more substantial societal impact.

The lessons learned and experiences from this project also enabled me to engage better with new concepts, unfamiliar settings and unknown stakeholders in my subsequent work. For instance, these skills have proved critical in working on a consultancy project for the OECD and as a Research Assistant in academia.

I have to express my big thanks to Tim and his team for their support and mentorship and to all involved with the Innovation Caucus, particularly Innovate UK and the ESRC teams involved with my internship. It was your determination and generosity that turned this project from a 3-month desk-job into a transformational professional journey.

You can find out more about Matjaz and his work at his research webpage:

For further information about this internship, please email Tim Vorley, Principal Investigator for the Innovation Caucus,


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