Regional economic development policies: using lessons from high-tech economies
Submitting InstitutionBirkbeck College
Unit of AssessmentBusiness and Management Studies
Summary Impact TypePolitical
Research Subject Area(s)
Studies In Human Society: Human Geography, Policy and Administration, Sociology
Summary of the impact
Research by Lawton Smith into analysing firms' behaviour and the
relationships between entrepreneurship and innovation and regional growth
has impacted on policy-making by regions and governments with
international reach though the OECD. An initial Oxfordshire focus of the
research resulted in the establishment of the Oxfordshire Economic
Observatory (OEO) (joint Oxford University/Oxford Brookes/Birkbeck) which
facilitated the application of the results of the research. Since 2008 OEO
has been commissioned to undertake policy-focussed research in a variety
of national and international contexts. The research has led to Lawton
Smith's involvement in influential policy advisory groups in the UK and
The first study on the location and development of the Oxfordshire high
tech economy was undertaken towards a DPhil Thesis by Lawton Smith at
Oxford University (1990). This research was timely and has so remained as,
in the mid-1980s, a body of literature began to appear on `new
industrial spaces', for example, Silicon Valley. Since then,
national and international political agenda have embraced entrepreneurship
and innovation, with a growing emphasis on the importance of the
contributions of universities, as drivers of regional economic development
(3.5). The underpinning high quality research explores the
interdependence of processes operating at various geographical scales in
different economic, political, regulatory and social contexts (3.1).
Lawton Smith's research, since joining Birkbeck in 2005, has focused on
universities' contributions to economic development, entrepreneurship-led
regional growth, the role of local and regional policy and charitable
sector institutions in shaping regional economic trajectories, and the
role that networks have in sustaining regions' economic vitality (3.2).
The growing importance of women-only networks has led to an EU FP7 `Coordination
and support actions' award in June 2013 on `Transforming
Institutions by Gendering contents and Gaining Equality in Research'
led by the Italian Ministry of Equal Opportunities.
The body of research provides insights into: the importance of non-public
policy actors in the governance of regions such as sector-specific
business networks; the extent of engagement of universities in local
economic development strategies; the importance of skilled labour markets
in explaining why some regions are more successful than others (3.3,
Research findings have been published in leading international journals,
cited in local, national and international policy documents, and have led
to studies being commissioned by local, regional, national and
international policy bodies plus an ESRC CASE studentship co-funded by
Studies have been undertaken by Lawton Smith alone and jointly with
Professor Glasson, Oxford Brookes University who, with Lawton Smith, are
joint leaders of OEO and two research assistants, Rupert Waters,
Buckinghamshire County Council/Visiting Fellow at Birkbeck and Saverio
Romeo, Birkbeck (both members of OEO); and Dave Chapman, Peter Wood and
Tim Barnes (UCL). Initially funded by a charitable trust, The Oxford
Trust, and by Oxfordshire County Council, it has subsequently been funded
through a series of grants and projects funded by public sector
organisations such as the Government of the South East, The Oxford to
Cambridge Arc and the European Commission.
References to the research
Recent relevant publications
Evidence of the quality of the research is in the location of outlet and
the nearly 2000 citations to the research. These key publications indicate
the range and type of research output.
3.1 Lawton Smith, H (2006) Universities, Innovation and the Economy
3.2 Lawton Smith, H, Romeo, S and Virahsawmy, M (2012) `Business and
professional networks: scope and outcomes in Oxfordshire' Environment
and Planning A 44, 44(8) 1801 - 1818.
3.3 Lawton Smith, H and Bagchi-Sen, S (2012) `The research university,
entrepreneurship and regional development: research propositions and
current evidence' Entrepreneurship & Regional Development 24, http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/tepn20/24/5-6
3.4 Lawton Smith, H and Waters, R (2011) `Scientific Labour Markets,
Networks and Regional Innovation Systems' Regional Studies 45, 7,
3.5 Lawton Smith, H and Ho, K W (2006) `Measuring the performance of
Oxfordshire's spin-off companies' Research Policy 35, 1554-1568.
Relevant funded research projects:
Specific recent funded research projects that have had an impact on
1. Federation of Small Businesses (Oxfordshire branch) `The Small
Business Economy in Oxfordshire' (September 2006-May 2007 - £23,000) (OEO,
led by Glasson) (to Oxford Brookes University).
2. Oxford to Cambridge Arc The effectiveness of Business Networks across
the O2C Arc (January 2007- June 2008) (OEO, funded by the Oxford to
Cambridge Arc led by Lawton Smith) (to OEO).
3. London Higher/OEO `Measuring the performance of London University
spin-offs' (September 2006-Feb 2007 - £25,000 (led by Lawton Smith +
Chapman, Barnes and Wood UCL) (funds to Birkbeck).
4. FP7 HealthTIES award 2010-2013 (Oxford, Leiden, Barcelona,
Zurich) (subcontractor to Oxford University, Euro 9000 to Birkbeck) SMEs,
innovation in the biomedical sector in the Thames Valley, led by
5. OECD (2011) `The Local Dimension of SME and Entrepreneurship Policies
and Programmes in Mexico' (Lawton Smith).
Details of the impact
The impact of the research is through evidence-led policy making in
several organisations. Primary and secondary data collected and subsequent
analyses have fed into development of policies by local and central
government, the OECD and other key stakeholders such as the Federation of
Small Businesses, and the Oxford Science Park. Examples of engagement and
dissemination with key users and beneficiaries are given below. The reach
is international and diverse in the range of organisations which have used
the research in informing policy development.
- OEO Research has been cited in policy work at regional and local
levels starting with inputs into the South East England Development
Agency policy documents such as the Regional Economic Strategy Plan
(1999). This led to OEO research being cited and used locally, for
example by Oxfordshire County Council and Oxford City Council of the OEO
Quarterly Economic updates. OEO's work has continuously had an impact on
policy formation, until recently being the major source of data on
economic activity in the county (5.4, 5.5, 5.7).
- Lawton Smith has worked closely with the locally, very influential,
charitable trust, The Oxford Trust (now Science Oxford) since the
mid-1980s, contributing to their policy documents and subsequent
actions, a relationship formalised with the establishment of OEO in 2001
- The Federation of Small Businesses Oxfordshire Branch commissioned OEO
to undertake a study of The Economic Ecology of Small Businesses in
Oxfordshire. This formed part of the FSB's on-going local strategy
to sustaining high growth local economic development (5.6).
- Lawton Smith was a member of the Manchester Development Panel &
contributor to the Report of the Panel on Strengthening Greater
Manchester's Economic Base Through Science, and Research and Development
(August 2011). OEO was cited in report as a model intelligence gathering
and analysis organisation. Lawton Smith was subsequently invited to be
an Expert Witness at the Northern Economic Futures Commission Meeting,
Port of Tyne, 13th December 2011. This led to the agreement
to collect more and better data to support their changes in policy (5.1).
- By way of illustrating context to the impact period, relevant
background is the contribution of Lawton Smith and Waters to the DTI's
2003 Skills Strategy. The contribution is based on Seminar 6: Regional
capacity and strategy to deliver skills change (Waters &
Lawton Smith), Skills and Competitiveness in Oxfordshire and
Cambridgeshire: Scientific Labour Markets. The implementation of
the DTI skills strategy (2003-2010) includes, in part, the impact period
during which a set of new approaches to the problems of regional skill
imbalances was pursued throughout England and Wales.
- NESTA became interested in where and how innovation takes place in
order to fulfil its mission of promoting innovation in the UK. They
invited Lawton Smith and Glasson (OEO) to contribute to a report Local
knowledge: case studies of four innovative places was made
available to all regions nationally and internationally (5.6).
Examples of contribution international policy-making
- Lawton Smith gave an invited keynote, `The impact of tertiary
education on urban development' OECD International Conference on
City Competitiveness, Tenerife, March 3 and 4 2005, and the invited
paper, `The Oxfordshire Cluster' on Clusters and Entrepreneurship:
Lessons of Seven International Case Studies in 51st session
OECD Cooperative Action programme on Local Economic Development and
Employment Development (LEED) Paris November 22 2007. Although prior to
the impact period, these led to reframing OECD member countries'
approaches to universities' roles in regional development and this is an
on-going process (5.3, 5.7).
- Lawton Smith was invited as an international expert to present on Science
Vale (Oxfordshire) at an OECD workshop on Innovation Systems and
Entrepreneurship in the city of Kristiansand, Agder (Norway), 20
February 2009. This led to revised policy recommendations for the Agder
- Lawton Smith was a member of an expert panel for an OECD assessment of
"SME and Entrepreneurship issues and policies at national and local
levels in Mexico" (October 2011). OECD reports that this led to
the Ministry of the Economy establishing the New National Institute of
Entrepreneurship (INE) in 2012/13 including the creation of a National
Entrepreneurship Observatory (5.3).
Sources to corroborate the impact
5.1 Letter from Northern Economies Futures Commission giving feedback and
impact on Northern prosperity is national prosperity — a strategy for
revitalising the UK economy Chair of the Commission and Deputy Chair and
Director -14th December 2012.
5.2 Former Didcot and Science Vale UK Manager, South Oxfordshire and Vale
of White Horse District Council, now independent Economic Development
Website showing highlights of Mexican conference (Jan 2012) and discussing
SMEs in Mexico. Factual statement from OECD also available.
5.4 Appearance on BBC South Politics show on feature on Oxfordshire
high-tech economy June 9th 2013 http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b021nqsv/Sunday_Politics_South_09_06_2013/.
(BBC policy is that i-player programmes are available for 7 days but the
academic has a recorded version of the programme which can be viewed if
5.5 Lawton Smith, H and Verswarmy, M (2008) Final Report on Business
Networks in the Oxford to Cambridge Arc, a Report Commissioned by the
Oxford to Cambridge Arc Oxford: OEO.
5.6 Lawton Smith, H and Glasson, J (2010) `Milton Park: developing a
successful high-tech business park' Part 1 in Local knowledge, case
studies of four innovative places London: NESTA. http://www.nesta.org.uk/library/documents/Local-Knowledge-130410.pdf
5.7 Clusters, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, OECD Publishing,
19 Aug 2009 Chapter: the high-tech cluster in Oxfordshire.