What does ‘innovation’ mean for cultural organisations anyway?

Following a preliminary discussion paper, NESTA has now published its proposal for an ‘innovation framework’ for use by cultural organisations and funders. Based on case study research with the National Theatre and Tate, authors of Culture of Innovation: An economic analysis of innovation in arts and cultural organisations suggest that ‘innovation’ within cultural organisations can happen across four main areas: audience reach, artform development, value creation and business models.

As part of the research, there is a consideration of  audience development strategies employed by the National Theatre and Tate. This includes an interesting comparison between the demographics of Gallery users and those of online audiences; for example, Tate’s web visitors during one campaign period were more likely to be female / ethnically diverse / have lower incomes than ordinary Gallery visitors. It will certainly be interesting to note whether these trends hold true as more data of this nature begins to filter through.

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Photo by Demarmels

Inward investment into the West Midlands 2009/10 – a local analysis

In 2009/10 there were 84 inward investment successes in the West Midlands and another four knowledge-based investments. These investments created over 1,500 new jobs and safeguarded another 4,300.

Although these 88 investments represented the lowest number of jobs created or safeguarded since 1992/93, they also represented the 7th highest total number of projects since 1991.

Pie chart shows 38 inward investments in West Midlands metropolitan areas and 49 inward investments in the shire counties over 2009 to 2010Inward investment is usually spread reasonably evenly between the West Midlands metropolitan areas and the shire counties. In 2009/10 the shire counties attracted the majority of inward investment projects (55%). See left.

However, the metropolitan areas of Birmingham, Coventry, Solihull, Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton have attracted perhaps just over half of the projects over the years – see below. The number of jobs created and safeguarded also generally follows a similar pattern.

Stacked bar chart shows percentage of inward investments into West Midlands metropolitan areas versus shire counties between 1991 and 2010

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NESTA offering local authorities £30k to spend with digital businesses on open data projects

Cutout figures connected by green light

Brian MacAulay, Director Innovation Index at NESTA, mentioned the Make It Local initiative to encourage collaboration between local authorities and digital media developers. It’s timely in the light of our open data: challenges and opportunities event last week and the government’s consultation on underlying data publication announced today.

Make It Local, the NESTA initiative, aims to:

…encourage collaboration between local authorities and digital media developers, to provide innovative, web-based services for their communities.

Make it Local is encouraging local authorities to release publicly-owned data in a linked way which allows developers an opportunity to build new services using the information.

Local authorities hold significant amounts of public data– such as transport, carbon emissions, population and crime data – which may help to power a range of useful, digital services. In developing partnerships between local authorities and digital media businesses, NESTA wants to show the value to local authorities of releasing their data to developers who can make use of it.

NESTA is calling for digital agencies with ideas for new applications to approach their local authority and encourage them to enter.

NESTA is offering three local authorities up to £30,000 to spend with a digital media business in their area.

The criteria for applications, application process and application form are available on the NESTA website.

Observatory enterprise and innovation team update: May 2010

This is the second post in a new series of weekly Observatory research updates; there will be one post from a different research team each week. We’re doing this in response to feedback we received in our recent website user survey. Please do get in touch with any feedback.

It’s rather a brief update from the Enterprise and Innovation team this month as during April and May we’ve been busy researching and compiling two interesting reports on different aspects of enterprise and employment in the West Midlands.

Aspirations of businesses in West Midlands

Our first piece of research is focused on uncovering emerging trends and issues related to aspirations of the region’s businesses and what is constraining their growth ambitions.

Our initial analysis is drawn from existing data following a scoping exercise to uncover what information sources were available on the topic. This proved particularly challenging; information regarding aspirations and barriers to growth is rather scarce. However, the report will outline a number of findings that we hope partners will find interesting.

Employment trends from Annual Business Inquiry data

Our second piece of research looks at trends in employment in the West Midlands using the latest Annual Business Inquiry data.

Initially reviewing the performance at a broad sector level, our report compares the trends of the West Midlands against the UK average and other regions.

The report also looks at the underlying drivers behind notable headline sector trends, providing in-depth analysis using the most detailed to Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes to fully examine what has been driving growth. Using predefined SIC groupings, the research looks at the recent trends in employment, the research looks at the recent trends in employment of high tech and knowledge intensive industries and Advantage West Midlands’ clusters. We also explore the breakdown of employment demographics.

We’ll publish these reports on the Observatory’s enterprise and innovation research pages in the coming weeks.

Implications of 2009 research and development scoreboard for West Midlands

The 2009 R&D Scoreboard, produced by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, examines the research and development spending of 1,000 UK companies. Dubbed the UK1000, these are the businesses which invested the largest amounts in R&D.

The Scoreboard does not measure total research and development spending, merely the biggest investors, so some substantial businesses (not to mention the wider business population) are not captured in the figures.

The Scoreboard also considers the top 1,000 companies globally (G1000), which includes only a subset of the UK1000, in order to make international comparisons.

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Higher level skills can help boost the region’s economic recovery

It’s no secret that the West Midlands has been harder hit by the recession than any other UK region. Indeed economic growth has been slower than that of many other regions for a number of years. This reflects long standing structural problems which mean we have relatively few high growth businesses. As a result, economic recovery in the West Midlands is expected to be difficult and protracted. Although headline regional Gross Value Added (GVA) is expected to begin to rise this year, an upturn in employment is not expected until 2012 – and projections show that it could be well into the next decade before the region reaches the peak levels of employment seen in 2008.

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Regional Skills Assessment published

The Regional Skills Assessment for 2009 is now available. This extensive research gives an overview of the changing needs of the West Midlands’ labour market, along with a detailed exploration of key issues by sector, by sub-region and for key groups.

This year’s main report presents a few distinctive sections compared to previous years. It mainly focuses on recent trends, looking also at the impact of recession and prospects for recovery.

The main report is complemented by two reports identifying the main skills needs and issues in each of the region’s key sectors and clusters.

The Assessment also includes a series of six detailed sub-​regional skills profiles assessing recent trends and future prospects for both the demand for and supply of skills. The profiles highlight key issues to support, in particular, development of Local Economic Assessments by local authorities, the commissioning of 16-​19 learning provision and the work of sub-​regional Employment and Skills Boards. The sub-regional assessments cover:

  • Birmingham and Solihull
  • Black Country
  • Coventry and Warwickshire
  • Herefordshire and Worcestershire
  • Shropshire
  • Staffordshire

In addition, there’s an entire chapter dedicated to future prospects in the region’s labour market with forecasts covering both short-​medium term (2009 to 2014) and long term (to 2024), using the Observatory’s economic forecasting model.

View the Regional Skills Assessment 2009 pages on wmro.org

Key contact: Andy Phillips, Head of Skills Research

West Midlands innovation fund delivers eleven-fold return on investment and brings jobs to region

Central Technology Belt - Birmingham - Worcestershire

An independent evaluation of the Technology Transfer Fund (TTF2) (pdf, 431kb) has underlined the value that the SME support fund has played in regional economic growth.

The fund was launched by Advantage West Midlands in 2005 to assist development of small and medium sized science and technology businesses within the Central Technology Belt, the high technology corridor that follows the A38 from Birmingham, through Worcester, to Malvern. TTF2 offered grants of up to £25,000 to more than 150 local companies.

The report (pdf, 431kb) produced by ekosgen on behalf of Advantage West Midlands found that the TTF2 realised more than £25 million of additional net turnover for the businesses it supported, and also created an additional 47 jobs during the two year project lifespan.

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Making the invisible visible: matching West Midlands ICT SMEs with business opportunities

West Midlands ICT Cluster AWMistThis is a guest post written by Brian Prangle with contributions from Andrew Mackenzie.

West Midlands Regional Development Agency, Advantage West  Midlands (AWM) has unveiled its latest initiative to stimulate and develop the high technology sector.

AWMist (A Web Map-based Information Search Tool) is the first regional interface of its kind where collaboration, business opportunity building, and partnerships can be easily forged between the region’s ICT SMEs (Small to Medium Enterprises) and those who can support and assist them, such as funding agencies, universities and business support projects.

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Innovation boosts productivity by two-thirds

Innovation is an essential driver for regional economic growth and a new national report has revealed how significant it can be in closing the productivity gap.

Two thirds of private sector productivity growth between 2000 and 2007 was driven by innovation, claims a new report by NESTA.

The findings are revealed in The Innovation Index: Measuring the UK’s investment in innovation and its effects (PDF, 1.59mb), the most ambitious attempt yet to measure the contribution of innovation to the UK’s economic growth.

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Regional innovation scoreboard imminent

Most of the time we compare the relative performance of the West Midlands to that of other English regions, but how do we compare with other regions in the wider EU?

INNO Metric’s 2006 Regional Innovation Scoreboard (RIS) made such comparisons, assessing data from over two hundred regions across twenty-five states of the EU to assess their relative performance in innovation. In a few weeks’ time, they will release an updated edition of the RIS using the latest available data to compare and contrast innovation performance across the EU.

Last Friday, we attended INNO Metric’s validation workshop in London to gain an understanding of the new RIS.

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Innovating out of recession workshop summary

With innovation seen as a key way for businesses to navigate the recession, the Innovating out of Recession workshop at our Annual Conference brought together an interesting mix of speakers and delegates to discuss innovative practices, measuring innovation and how innovation may change the industrial structure of the West Midlands.

Cliff Dennett from thoughtengine, co-author of Innovation in a recession (chapter 7 in the Fit for the Future book ), kicked off a series of presentations covering a range of innovation related topics. Cliff’s presentation focussed on ways in which we can explore cost-cutting but value adding activities.
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New report on innovation in a changing economy

BMW hams hall

In difficult economic times, firms need to adapt if they are going to survive. Innovation is particularly important at such times. However, as the economy changes to one increasingly dependent on services then so must our view of innovation.

One of the Observatory’s new State of the Region thematic reports, The Importance of Innovation in a Changing  Economy (PDF, 685kb), looks at how innovation can continue to drive change in the economy of the future.

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Developing a high growth knowledge economy in the West Midlands

Laboratory at Micropathology Ltd, Warwick Science ParkKnowledge intensive industries rely on innovation and knowledge to gain competitive advantage and, although the sector has grown rapidly in recent years, the West Midlands has struggled to attract these activities.

Through a state of the region dialogue on the West Midlands’ knowledge economy (pdf, 383kb), the Observatory has identified a range of actions to address this, developed and agreed by a range of policy makers, researchers and academics.

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Plot data on world maps with new OECD tools

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and DevelopmentTwo new online tools from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) now allow you to plot a huge array of social and economic data onto world maps and track them through time creating an animated chart as you follow your chosen geographic area against other areas. It’s easy to use and, more importantly, easy on the eye.

The first tool, the OECD Factbook eXplorer, allows you to display data (subject to availability) for countries from 1950 to 2006, or even beyond if forecast data is available.

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