The Lancashire Innovation Board, a Lancashire Enterprise Partnership sub-committee which helps develop and drive innovation strategies and initiatives across the county, has launched a new strategic plan.

Described as a  ‘blueprint for growth’,  and developed in partnership with Lancashire County Council and the county’s leading universities and innovation organisations, the Lancashire Innovation Plan (LIP)  is built around four central pillars: Grow, Expand, Connect and Tell.

The Grow and Expand pillars focus on maintaining, strengthening, and extending Lancashire’s world-class capabilities in innovation-led sectors such as aerospace, advanced manufacturing, energy and chemicals. 

They also outline the need to maximise and broaden the county’s R&D offer, and exploit new opportunities in emerging markets including electech, cyber, the digital industries, health and low carbon.

These pillars also highlight the need to increase engagement with local businesses, and encourage more innovation-based growth across all sectors, and at all levels.

While both the Grow and Expand sections concentrate on boosting innovation capacity and networking activity within Lancashire, the Connect and Tell pillars are designed to drive engagement with external partners, national investors, and global markets.

Their activities also include closer strategic working with Lancashire’s neighbouring north west regions, and across the UK, to develop more joint innovation opportunities.

Further, undertaking more communication and lobbying aimed at key influencers and policymakers, including central government, are set to be part of an overarching  campaign  to tell Lancashire’s innovation story to the rest of the world.

The LIP outlines the significant economic benefits which Lancashire could enjoy by pursuing these four strategic pathways, and includes a series enabling actions to help each pillar deliver its objectives.  

There are specific interventions designed to maximise assets like the National Cyber Force HQ, the AMRC North West, UCLan’s Engineering Innovation Centre, and Lancaster University’s Health Innovation Campus, as well as a proposal to establish a Lancashire Innovation Observatory to monitor, anticipate and evaluate new commercial opportunities.

Other actions are centred around the identification and amplification of ‘Smart Specialisations’; core industry strengths and R&D specialisms which could help Lancashire position itself as global trailblazer within several high-growth and in-demand sectors.

Additional activities recommended by the LIP include facilitating more sector clustering;  adopting a more targeted approach to securing research funding; ramping up innovation support specifically  for SMEs; creating a programme of investor pitch events; enabling more university spin-outs and spin-ins; and developing a more innovation-focused inward investment marketing strategy.

Professor Graham Baldwin, Vice Chancellor of UCLan,  Chair of the Lancashire Innovation Board and LEP board member, said: “Our strengths in technology-based and digitalised industries, our universities’ outstanding reputation for applied research, our highly skilled workforce, and our world-class R&D assets, have all helped lay the foundations for significant innovation-led growth across Lancashire.     

“But to maximise our full potential, we recognise that the county needs a cohesive roadmap which connects these assets, consolidates our significant commercial and academic strengths, and engages with businesses of all sizes and types.

“As a result, we have developed the Lancashire Innovation Plan; a new, pragmatic and measurable growth strategy for the whole of the county. Through four clearly defined pillars it sets out our objectives, together with a series of specific actions to help us achieve them.

“However, a plan is only as good as the people and organisations who engage with it, which is why we are calling upon all of Lancashire’s business leaders, HEIs, policymakers, support agencies, and wider partners, to support its vision, ambition, and implementation, in every way they can.”

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The Lancashire Innovation Plan was launched last week at FHunded, a new networking platform for Lancashire businesses, investors and intermediaries.

Organised and hosted by the Fraser House co-working hub in Lancaster, in collaboration with the Lancashire Digital Hub, the  event brought together over 70 local entrepreneurs, start-ups, and micro-businesses who are all committed to embedding innovation into their business models to help drive growth.

They were joined by representatives from some of the North West’s biggest investment funds, angel investors, and VC specialists, who are interested in backing Lancashire’s next innovation-led success stories.   

Ben Davies, Group Marketing Director at Praetura Ventures, said: “Today at Fraser House, the Praetura team met some incredibly exciting, growing businesses looking to attract investment. And while that’s really encouraging, the key to developing a long-term, innovation-focused regional economy is growing a thriving ecosystem which helps all businesses access best-in-class resources and benefits. This means that founders of Lancashire businesses can lay the right foundations, create companies that make a real impact, and inspire others to do the same.”

“The new Lancashire Innovation Plan not only highlights how this type of ecosystem could help boost the county’s economy and drive new investment, it also presents a clear roadmap of how it can get there. Many of the plan’s recommended actions mirror our own research, and as an investor who works in the technology and health sectors, the county’s has untapped potential creates a really exciting proposition.”

The Lancashire Innovation Board is planning a national launch of the plan in London later this year.

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