A new report highlights the economic and political impact of a ground-breaking Lancaster University programme.
More than 67,000 businesses benefitted from the Wave 2 Growth Hub (W2GH) Programme, and more than 4,000 private sector jobs will be created by 2017. The new report highlights the programme’s significant successes, as well as all the lessons learnt and reflections for the future.
The W2GH Programme established 15 local ‘growth hubs’ across England to promote economic growth and improve business support to small and medium sized enterprises. Businesses have used growth hubs in wide-ranging ways from accessing web-based information to detailed support for business development and investment.
The programme was a product of the Government’s ambition to rebalance the English economy. Following the Cities White Paper, which initially delivered devolution deals with the eight major (Wave 1) cities, the W2GH Programme helped expand this support to the next 14 largest cities and a further six with the highest population growth between 2001 and 2010 – known as Wave 2 cities.
Dr Cathy Garner, Policy Advisor on the programme, said: “Whilst the eight largest cities had driven their local economic development agendas for a considerable time, those smaller cities engaged in the initial Wave 2 City Deals, had variable levels of existing infrastructure through which to support local economic development or, specifically to provide support to local businesses. It was this gap that the Wave 2 Growth Hubs Programme was specifically designed to fill, alongside ongoing growth deals.”
Professor Ellie Hamilton, W2GH Programme Director, said: "The programme not only demonstrated the vital role that universities can play in supporting the needs of business in the UK but was ground-breaking in terms of its scale and its role in enabling agile and effective policy implementation in the transition to local devolution."
In 2013 Lancaster University bid successfully to the Regional Growth Fund (RGF) to lead the strategic implementation of this new form of business support. An early initiative in the devolution and local growth agenda, the programme was developed in collaboration with the Cabinet Office, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), British Chambers of Commerce, BIS Local and the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG).
Lancaster University’s ability to translate world class research into programmes with proven economic impact lay at the core of this programme. The University’s work with SMEs was recognised by Sir Andrew Witty within his Government commissioned report ‘Encouraging a British Invention Revolution’, which identified Lancaster as a top ten UK university on volume of interactions with SMEs.
This expertise was embedded in the strategic design of the programme resulting in the creation of a powerful network of locally based organisations that are learning with each other about what works best for business growth and job creation. The programme has leveraged over £66 million of private sector investment in response to the £30 million of RGF invested in the Growth Hubs and SMEs.
Since the programme, the University has continued to work with Government to provide ongoing evidence and support, for example, to the BIS Select Committee on Government Support for Business. Government Growth Deal investment in this network has resulted in 39 Growth Hubs now operating across England (one in each Local Enterprise Partnership area), that provide support to 100% of the registered business population. A further £24 million was recently allocated through the Spending Review, to assist Growth Hubs towards becoming self-sustaining.
In 2016, the Academy of Management recognised the achievements of the programme through its runner-up PTC Research Center Impact Award and the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AASCB) named the programme as one of the world’s ‘Innovations That Inspire’.