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      Cultivating World-Class Innovation Ecosystems

      Six part Q&A with Jamie Clyde, Regional Director and Innovation Services Director at Bruntwood SciTech

      19 Feb 2022 Jamie Clyde, Regional Director and Innovation Services Director at Bruntwood SciTech

      1. What are the necessary ingredients required to cultivate and maintain innovation ecosystems?

      The first element in creating a successful ecosystem is anchor individuals – charismatic, purposeful entrepreneurs who are good connectors. They often aren’t talked about but successful ecosystems have a small number of individuals with a very large impact on the success of a cluster.

      The second element is an IP reservoir – that can be academic but can equally be corporate. Our obvious academic contenders in the Arc are the universities, but we also have the likes of GSK and AstraZeneca that are adept at translating key intellectual property into broader applications.

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      2. How does Bruntwood SciTech foster collaboration and dialogue between innovators within its ecosystems?

      We have a number of services that are trying to glue all these components together, to drive either planned or unplanned collaboration. The key point here is that some of this is actively trying to get people to connect, but it is also often as simple as creating an environment where moments of unplanned collaboration can take place rather than scripting encounters by design. That is often just as valuable, or more valuable, than the planned collaboration.

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      3. Why is close spatial clustering such an important dynamic in the innovation life cycle of start-ups and spinouts?

      If people are physically present, they have to really connect. Opportunities for us to collaborate beyond virtual means is where we build deeper and less transactional relationships, with opportunities for unplanned things to happen. The world has particularly learned that during the pandemic. We’ve been running one of our corporate innovation programmes – we ran the first cohort just before Covid, and the second one during Covid, where we went virtual. We had a 50% lower performance on the second cohort, which we put down to having less unplanned interaction between the cohort in person. That was a great illustration to us of just that value, one difficult to measure, but which becomes very clear. er links across communities.

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      4. How do campuses and clusters forge links outside of the workplace? Do you see holistic research communities as important?

      We often hear of a ‘triple helix’ within the Oxford-Cambridge Arc of public, private and academic collaboration. What’s behind a successful cluster is really a quadruple helix, where the local community forms the fourth pillar. In the old world of science parks, they were surrounded by big walls and one needed ID to get through the gate. The key difference between an old science park and modern innovation districts is that this wall had disappeared. Now academic, public and private activity is meshed with the local community, and the local community plays a vital part in that.

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      5. What are some of the benefits of so many institutions in the Arc working as joint ventures? 

      Where institutions work together through equity and JV relationships, we have the opportunity to align strategy and objectives that benefit the ecosystem where small and growing businesses can thrive. We don’t have a scenario where different institutions are randomly investing in capital assets that are duplicated or strategically misaligned, but instead there’s a cohesive plan. From a knowledge capital point of view, there’s collaboration and the development of innovators and incubators acting together. 

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      6. What could the government, the private sector and academia do next to continue to supercharge science and technology research and development in the Arc? How could they make your job easier? 

      The first point is that there needs to be a clearer intelligence picture in the Arc, what support is available and who is out there to collaborate with. That would help signpost the process for innovative business and help sources of support rise to the surface. Having that visibility of who’s who in the Arc would be a valuable resource.

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