Collaboration is key: insight into civic partnerships in Leeds

A new report, ‘Unlocking the potential of civic collaboration’, offers fresh insight into collaborative working between the University of Leeds and Leeds City Council. Professor Adam Crawford and Professor Adrian Favell, of Leeds Social Sciences Institute, discuss why collaboration is becoming more important and its role in the West Yorkshire Devolution Deal. 

As Leeds responds to the pandemic, prepares for Brexit and works with colleagues across West Yorkshire to maximise the benefits of devolution, collaboration and knowledge exchange between researchers and local policy-makers and practitioners is vital. A new report from Leeds Social Sciences Institute (LSSI) has provided a detailed review of research-policy collaboration in the city for the first time. It affords an analysis of the extent of such partnerships and factors that encourage or inhibit successful collaborative projects. While the report focuses on bi-lateral relationships between researchers at the University of Leeds and Council officers, we believe it offers insights into collaboration that are of interest in development of research collaboration partnerships regionally.   

It highlights productive research collaborations between the two organisations in responding to economic, social and environmental challenges over many years. The report reveals strong inter-personal relationships and includes case studies of successful projects spanning a vast array of social, environmental and scientific topics. It outlines findings from an online survey and interviews with staff from the University and the Council on the benefits, enablers and barriers affecting research collaboration. As a result of findings from the Review, a series of recommendations have been proposed to establish a more strategic approach to research-policy partnerships, which are informed by principles that aim to enhance and accelerate collaboration in future. These recommendations have now been accepted by both institutions and a joint Reference Group has been established to oversee the implementation of an agreed Action Plan.  

The Review shows the scale of research collaboration between University and Council, with 118 projects spanning all faculties and directorates since 2015, of which 45 are currently live. It also shows that these projects are dependent upon, and contribute to, much broader relationships with businesses, voluntary and public sector partners and other universities within the city and across the region.   

The value of regional collaborative partnerships is more apparent than ever in developing a regional response to the global pandemic, Brexit and preparing for devolution in West Yorkshire. The Place-Based Economic Recovery Network (PERN), a multi-University network of experts, is focusing on economic recovery to support WYCA and Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership and other public bodies in planning COVID-19 recovery efforts. Sub-regional interaction through WYCA and Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership has intensified in preparation for devolved powers and budgets under the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act 2016. Introducing a directly elected mayor for West Yorkshire will increase opportunity for decision-making on issues including housing and transport, requiring robust evidence to inform policy development. Devolution will provide more flexibility on issues, such as transport and housing, and will unlock a £1.8bn investment with other councils in West Yorkshire, which necessitates collective and evidence-informed decision-making. The Review is a timely new step for future consideration of multi-stakeholder research partnerships. 

Researchers who took part in the survey and interviews for the Review viewed working with the council as a direct pathway to impact and funding for research is set to become more place-based. The Government’s UK Research and Development Roadmap, published earlier this year, recognises the role of a place-based approach to research and development in ‘levelling up’ regional inequalities. This specifically highlights the requirement to foster ‘greater collaborations and networks between funders, researchers, practitioners and civic leaders to embed a system to deliver a stronger local economic benefit and improved quality of life outcomes’.   

Prior to the Review, collaborations had been largely on an ad hoc basis, however steps are now being taken to actively encourage effective partnerships. Twelve recommendations were proposed for accelerating research-policy engagement. These include named collaboration champions, co-produced priorities for place-based research, a ‘connected Leeds’ vision for data sharing and building research activities into Council procurement. These recommendations are considered an initial step in pursuing much wider civic aspirations and regional relationships. 

Collaboration is expected to continue play an increasingly significant role throughout the Leeds City Region and beyond. Researchers in the Social Sciences are also developing collaborative relations with other local authorities in West Yorkshire, as well as across the North of England more broadly. The Review constitutes a new phase in the development of wider strategies to enhance and harness public and third sector engagement across the city-region. The recommendations an aligned Action Plan offer a useful platform from which to build wider collaborative research partnerships across the region in the future.   

Professor Adam Crawford is Director of Leeds Social Sciences Institute (LSSI) and Professor Adrian Favell is Chair in Sociology and Social Theory at the University of Leeds and Deputy Director of LSSI. 

To learn more about the Review contact: lSSI@leeds.ac.uk 

You can read the full Review here.

  • Share this post:

PERN Academic Steering Group submission to the BEIS post pandemic economic growth consultation

This response has been authored by an economics sub-group of the Place-Based Economic Recovery Network (PERN) Academic Steering Group, by Dr. Thomas Haines-Doran, Professor Andrew Brown, and Professor Gary Dymski from the University of Leeds; Professor Jamie Morgan, Leeds Beckett University, and Dr. Richard Whittle, Manchester Metropolitan University.

PERN brings together experts from West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA), Leeds City region Enterprise Partnership, Yorkshire Universities, and universities outside of Yorkshire, with the aim of playing a key role as ‘anchor institutions’ in regional recovery and development.

Here you can read the submission in full.

  • Share this post:

RDAs: Back to the Future?

Guest blog by Kevin Richardson, Local Academy

It is almost a decade since the then coalition government announced it would abolish 9 Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) in England and replace them with what turned out to be 39 Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs). But the political and economic debates, which underpinned that decision, are as relevant today as they were ten years ago. The UK (especially England) remains the most centralised state in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. And not unrelated, because of ever-widening regional disparities of wealth and deprivation, the UK is rooted at the foot of the league table. 

Read more

  • Share this post:

This week’s leadership message comes from our Partnership Director Ian Holmes and Tony Jamieson, Director of Transformation for Yorkshire & Humber Academic Health Science Network.

As published on the West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership website on 29 May 2020

Hello, our names are Ian and Tony,

The West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership is founded on the principle of collaboration.  Working together, across health and care partners, with local communities gives us the best chance of improving health and care for everyone.  This collaboration stretches beyond health and care organisations.  Yorkshire benefits from a vibrant university sector, which works closely in partnership through groups, such as Yorkshire Universities.  Higher education is a huge asset to our region and it can be a critical factor in the West Yorkshire response to Covid-19.

Read more

  • Share this post:

Federations of Universities: What could we learn from elsewhere?

Guest blog by Kevin Richardson, Local Academy

Introduction 

Universities UK has called for the establishment of a ‘transformation fund’ to support universities over the next two to three years to reshape and consolidate through federations’ and partnerships, or potentially merge with other higher education institutions, further education colleges or private providers’.

Read more

  • Share this post:

Universities and Geography: Learning from the OECD?

Guest blog by Kevin Richardson, Research England

UKRI committed in its original Strategic Prospectus to publish a Place Strategy and work is progressing towards its publication. Meanwhile, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has opened an investigation into ‘universities and geography’. Kevin Richardson, Research England, identifies many common issues.

Read more

  • Share this post:

Lobsters and libraries: why engagement with place matters

This guest blog is based upon a speech Matthew Guest from GuildHE recently gave at a recent event on impactful knowledge exchange between higher education and the cultural sector run by The Culture Capital Exchange

Higher education providers of all shapes and sizes can play the pivotal role in brokering relationships and supporting activities between government, industry, charity and place. 

Serving communities is important. Deep listening, understanding and commitment is crucial if we are to address the severe inequalities found within almost every village, town and city in the UK. 

Where does higher education feature in this?

Read more

  • Share this post:

Health in all Local Industrial Strategies?

Guest contribution from Michael Wood, NHS Confederation

The government published its Industrial Strategy in November 2017, setting out a long-term plan to create an economy that boosts productivity and earning power throughout the UK. Critically, every local economic area in England, along with the devolved administrations, is now developing its own local industrial strategy. This briefing reflects on the emerging importance of health to many of the early draft local industrial strategies, explores the opportunities for the NHS that exist at both system and organisational level and outlines how to engage with and influence the development of these strategies in the coming year.

Key points

Read more

  • Share this post:

The Civic University: How should universities assess their economic impacts in a “civic age”?

Guest blog by Tim Fanning and David Marlow

If the Civic University Commission (CUC) Final Report is to genuinely change the type of impacts universities have on the places where they are located,  universities will need to be prepared to deliver impact studies and analyses in new, more explicitly civic and bespoke ways..

The role of the university economic and social impact study

Economic and social impact assessments have become an important part of the evidence base for universities. This reflects the increasing economic importance of universities to their local areas in many locations over time, as well as growing expectations on the sector to harness and demonstrate its wider socio-economic value.

Read more

  • Share this post:

Driving social mobility? Competitive collaboration in degree apprenticeship development

Guest blog by Claire Newhouse, Head of Apprenticeships and Skills, Leeds Trinity University

Degree apprenticeships present an opportunity for universities to contribute directly towards improving productivity by increasing the number of people in local and regional economies with higher-level skills.  They offer a new income stream for universities, but they also provide a means for diversifying HE entrants.  The dual role for apprenticeships, as a mechanism for boosting productivity and enhancing social mobility, is not without tension, although it can, at times, be taken for granted by government. 

Read more

  • Share this post: