Research, Policy & Practice for Innovation in the High-Tech Economy

16 March 2011


CSaP, together with the Institute for Manufacturing (IfM) co-hosted a visit to Cambridge by the State Governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick and his Innovation Economy Partnership Mission on 15 March 2011. The aim of this visit was twofold: to exchange ideas about research, policy and practice for innovation in the context of the knowledge economy, and to explore opportunities for future collaboration between two of the world’s most successful innovation hubs. The 100-strong audience brought together researchers, students and entrepreneurs in life sciences, ICT and clean energy, as well as policy makers from the Governor’s team and the CSaP’s network.

After the visitors were welcomed by Professor Sir Mike Gregory (Head of IFM) and Dr David Cleevely (CSaP Founding Director), the event began with a panel discussion chaired by Finbarr Livesey on how innovation can be promoted by policy, business and the research sector. Dr Graeme Reid (Deputy Director, Economic Impact, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) emphasised the importance of universities for the performance of the UK economy; despite recent cuts in public expenditure, the government had decided to maintain investments in science and research with the objective of diversifying the economy and fostering the creation and commercialisation of knowledge. Dr Reid also highlighted the priority given to reinforcing strategic relationships around the world as part of the government’s efforts to promote the innovation economy. Using research results from his work with Dr Reid, Dr Eoin O’Sullivan (Senior Policy Fellow, IfM) then showed how the availability of high quality R&D personnel, the quality of university facilities, and the ease of collaboration with researchers have led to the UK punching above its weight for a share of R&D inward investment. He also underlined the value of the whole ecosystem as one of the reasons why multinational firms often choose Cambridge as a strategic knowledge hub.

Next, Dr Tim Minshall (Senior Lecturer, IfM) gave an overview of the Cambridge Technopole and shared with the audience some of the success stories in the region, covering both spin-outs and multinationals, and emphasising the role of the technology consulting firms. Finally, Dr Julian Huppert (MP for Cambridge) described the role of government policy in promoting an environment where innovation can thrive, and introduced his new “Entrepreneurship Charter”. The presentations were followed by a Q&A session where topics such as R&D capital efficiency, the role of mission-driven institutions, the impact of government procurement policies and the latest trends regarding open innovation were debated.

After a networking break, Governor Patrick took the stage to conduct a “town hall” meeting under the banner “Collaborating as Leaders in the Innovation Economy”. He defined the key themes of his State’s strategy for growth as education, innovation and infrastructure, and stressed the importance of governing for the long term by making the choice to invest today in tomorrow’s knowledge industries. (Listen to the Governor’s address here.)

The Governor then opened the floor to questions from the audience, and led a lively discussion on a range of issues, beginning with the healthcare reform in the United States as a catalyst for innovation in the life sciences, and the parallels with the NHS and proposed reforms in the UK. He emphasised the role of the Massachusetts e-Health Institute in developing the use of health information technology and electronic health records.

He then reviewed the state’s roadmap and policies in the green tech arena, and his aim to cut carbon emissions by 25% by 2020 and 80% by 2050, and to stimulate the demand for renewable technologies. He described the carbon emissions trading scheme in which his State participates as the only market model that has worked to date, setting an example for other US states and even other countries to follow – although in discussion with Dr Chris Hope he conceded that the prices currently used for carbon trading massively understate the true economic price.

Further, Governor Patrick discussed the role of the government as an enabler of entrepreneurial activity, emphasising the role of his administration as a lead user of locally-generated innovative solutions, and presenting an example of a web-based marketplace for innovations, the MassBio Innovation Exchange platform.

On behalf of the CSaP, David Cleevely drew proceedings to a close by welcoming Governor Patrick to the Associate Fellowship of the Centre, citing in particular his commitment to science, innovation and education at the core of his State’s strategy for growth.

Thumbnail: Richard Howe via WikiCommons

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