On 29 November 2018, academics, representatives from the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) and the Government collaborated at an event to help inform policy priorities for Greater Manchester’s Local Industrial Strategy. Minister for Business and Industry Richard Harrington MP was joined by Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham, to speak about ‘Delivering the Grand Challenges Locally, Nationally and Globally’. The panel event, which attracted around 100 attendees, was chaired by Luke Georghiou, Deputy President and Deputy Vice Chancellor, at The University of Manchester. Fellow panellists were Marianne Sensier – also from the University – and Jessica Bowles, Director of Strategy at Bruntwood. In this blog, Luke Georghiou sets out his keynote speech from the panel event.
The national Industrial Strategy has as its centrepiece four Grand Challenges selected to create opportunities for the UK to take a leading position in industries for the future: Artificial Intelligence and Data; Ageing Society; Clean Growth; and Future of Mobility. There is also a commitment to use missions as the principal instrument to deliver on the Challenges. As well as setting the keynote at national level, the challenges are also intended to align local industrial strategies. Below, using the case of Greater Manchester (GM), I will seek to unpack the requirements for successful delivery of challenges and missions and argue that place is important with cities providing the necessary integration and universities being key contributors.
Challenges play a role beyond that of prioritising a technology or sector. Three of the grand challenges are framed in terms of pressing social problems: our ageing society, mobility and environmental sustainability. The challenges provide a framework to reach out to citizens and engage them in what we are doing. They also provide an envelope within which resources and commitment across a wide range of sectors and actors can be brought to bear.
On its own though a challenge can easily lose focus and become all things to all people. We need a means to ensure that there is clarity in what is promised and accountability for what is delivered. This is where missions come in. In the UK the concept of missions has been championed and articulated by the Commission for Mission-Oriented Innovation and Industrial Strategy (MOIIS), co-led by Mariana Mazzucato and Lord Willetts, of which the author is a member.
As you would expect, MOIISS has spent time not only in identifying potential missions but also in clarifying what it takes for them to succeed. To move from a challenge to a mission it is necessary to move to a level of granularity which allows us to set targets and timings but is still traceable to the high-level goal so as not to lose the inspirational nature of the challenge.
People often talk of the Apollo moon landing programming as the archetypal mission. It certainly meets the criterion of having a verifiable goal – you know when you have succeeded. However, the ‘moon-shot’ falls into the simpler category of missions where this is more easily done – the rapid development of the Ebola vaccine is more recent example. The problem is that we often find ourselves in the more difficult territory where solutions are unknown and problems are ‘wicked’ or messy. Here the archetype is Richard Nixon’s unsuccessful ‘War on Cancer’.
This should not be a cause for pessimism – it is perfectly possible to produce credible mission to address complex problem areas. Returning to the example of cancer, a mission focusing on early detection and prevention could offer high returns from a mixture of measures ranging from putting diagnostic units into supermarket car parks to carrying out leading edge research on biomarkers.
There is a hint in that example of another key aspect of successful delivery. I mentioned earlier the need for coordination. For all of the Grand Challenges there is a need for coordination within the research and innovation ecosystem – they are inherently cross-disciplinary, cross-sectoral and cross-actor. However, we also need to coordinate beyond. Success often depends upon alignment of public procurement policies to create demand pull and turn the UK into a lead market that demonstrates the effectiveness of our innovations. Further alignment is needed for regulations and standards which need to be adapted to the disrupted environment created by the innovation. If used wisely this too can be an instrument of competitive advantage. Exercising those levers means that missions are essentially cross-governmental – they cannot be delivered by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) or UK research and Innovation (UKRI) acting alone.
This brings me to the city dimension. In a well-run city (such as Greater Manchester!) the policy boundaries are lower and the barriers to coordination less. We have the potential to accelerate that integration. While a national mission cannot be fulfilled in one city, it can provide a proof of concept that is then scaled up and replicated across the country, with due allowance for learning from evaluation and adaptation to variation in circumstances.
All of the Grand Challenges are relevant for Greater Manchester. AI and Data are cross-cutting capabilities that are key to the future competitiveness of both manufacturing and service sectors in the city. We are already capitalising on the opportunities created by Health Devo in turning health data into an asset for both economic and social benefit. The arrival of GCHQ cements a key capability in this area.
The University of Manchester and the city’s other universities also play a key role.
The University of Manchester is supporting data sciences through hosting a Heilbronn Institute, membership of the Turing Institute and collaboration with the other Greater Manchester universities in the Cyber Foundry – a training initiative in cyber security. We have co-founded a Law and Technology Club to bring these opportunities to leading firms in the city and are similarly supporting Fintech developments. Application of ideas and technologies and understanding of behavioural issues are key contributions universities can make to the Industrial Strategy, as are entrepreneurial activity among staff and students. For example, a recent independent review calculated that, with the right support infrastructure, graphene-related work could create £1.2bn additional GDP for Greater Manchester by 2030 with 91 new spin-outs and many thousand jobs at all levels. Similar developments are possible in biomanufacturing – another of the University’s beacon areas which aligns closely with Clean Growth.
The University’s health data capability also supports the Ageing Society challenge. A strong position in dementia research and in health technology (including IoT) are further examples. The coordinated approach in the city has placed Greater Manchester in the leading group for this challenge.
Clean Growth and Future of Mobility are also key given the effects on our population of poor air quality, transport congestion and inadequate communications, concerns on plastics recycling and the pressing need for carbon reduction.
The emerging Greater Manchester Local Industrial Strategy is driven by local needs and capabilities but is also framed to meet the Grand Challenges. This builds upon regional strengths identified in the 2016 Science and Innovation Audit, in health innovation and advanced materials, the digital asset and technology base and emerging capability in green industries. Manchester has jumped 11 places in the 2018 Innovation Cities Index – ahead of Beijing and the only UK city other than London. The intangible assets of the largest knowledge base outside the South East, our ability to join up thinking and action across local government, business and universities and our global outlook and reputation combine to make Manchester ready to take a lead and rise to the challenges.