Innovation clusters can help to ‘supercharge economic growth’

Speaker: Kate Patton, Head of UK cluster policy, Confederation of British Industry

Kate Patton, head of UK cluster policy, Confederation of British Industry, addressed the benefits of clusters and how they “supercharge economic growth” and while “there are no easy solutions [for economic recovery], clustering is a faster way to get there”, at the BIG South London Business, Innovation & Growth Summit 2022.

Kate Patton, CBI
Clusters are often centred around a sector or region with anchor institutions and centres of innovation, enabling businesses to collaborate and share best practices to accelerate. As per The Confederation of British Industry (CBI), it must meet the following criteria: be business-led, lock in private sector investment at a pace and scale, give national significance to the UK economy, have the potential to be world-class and leading in international markets, and be able to scale to superclusters.

Recently, talk of clusters is emerging amongst politicians as part of their agendas, however, clusters are not a new concept. Ms Patton said they’ve been around since the 1500s. The 14th century was famous for woollen cloth, the 15th century Florence for its fine arts, the 16th century Bartow for its wine and so on.

She highlighted that clusters have huge benefits to local, national and global growth and are a solution for raising productivity and creating globally competitive industries. She said: “They’ll create a tangible benefit and we’ve done research on the UK economy, including closing the productivity gap between the highest and lowest performing parts of the UK, they will add as much as 215 billion to the UK economy. A 10% boost and GVA in areas of existing business specialisation concentration could add 66 billion to the UK economy.”

The CBI is a not-for-profit business leadership organisation with around 190,000 businesses, including firms and trade associations, employing nearly seven million people.

“Access is what we have,” Ms Patton said. “We have the unique opportunity to use our catalytic convening power to supercharge the national economic power across the UK.”

To collate best practices, the CBI has published the first version of The Digital Clusters Playbook. She noted that is a “living dynamic piece of work” on the website, which contains videos, testimonials and case studies from strong proponents and spokespeople and open for further contributions.

She said: “My hope is that people will stop silo thinking or putting up barriers around this, instead, take down the issues and start to see the greater good here. This is also about real people’s lives; we have to think about the fact that people are suffering in the economy right now, they’re not living to the standard they should be. It’s our due diligence, in policy, within education, within all the different ways that are represented here today, to help them be better.”

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