Economic Recovery Post COVID-19: The MIT Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Programme (REAP)

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Dr Chloe Billing discusses the goals and objectives of MIT’s Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Programme, the aims of its pilot programme in the UK and what the MIT REAP West Midlands is doing to help the region recover from COVID-19.  

In March 2020, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) launched a pilot in the UK of a ‘lite’ version of its global ‘Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Programme’ (REAP), aimed at helping UK regions with achieving greater productivity, employment and returns from research. In collaboration with the UK Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Loughborough University, this programme seeks to deepen the collective efforts and community of practice of entrepreneurship and innovation. MIT’s theoretical and practice-based expertise and regional leadership focused on this new initiative to support productivity growth, is a defining factor in the delivery of the UK’s Local Industrial Strategies

The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) is one of six regions currently part of the programme. The other regions include:

  • Cumbria, Lancashire, and Cheshire & Warrington LEPs
  • Heart of the South West LEP
  • Leicester and Leicestershire LEP
  • North East LEP
  • Sheffield City Region LEP

The West Midlands Team ‘lite’ REAP team is sponsored by the GBSLEP, BCCLEP and the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), whilst also representing the Coventry & Warks LEP area. WM REDI is part of this team, which includes representatives from Government, Academia, Corporates, SMEs, and Risk Capital.  Other organisations involved include the WMCA (Innovation Lead), Innovate UK, GBSLEP, Black Country Growth LEP, West Midlands Combined Universities, Aston Centre for Growth, Birmingham University, Midlands Aerospace Alliance, KPMG, Greater Birmingham Chambers, Black Country Chamber, Innovation Alliance West Midlands, and the British Business Bank.

Goals and Objectives

The goal of the MIT REAP-UK Initiative is to support regional teams of leaders representing Entrepreneurs, Risk Capital Providers, Corporates, Academia, and Governments in an evidence-based approach to supporting innovation and entrepreneurship in each team’s local region. The initiative draws on the frameworks founded and established through the MIT REAP global program and translates them into the UK context with a cohort composed of entirely UK-based teams.

This pilot builds on MIT REAP’s experience with over 50 regions from around the world since its inception in 2012, (including UK-based teams from London, Scotland, Wales and currently Leeds City Region).

The goal of the MIT REAP-UK Initiative is to support regional teams of leaders representing Entrepreneurs, Risk Capital Providers, Corporates, Academia, and Governments in an evidence-based approach to supporting innovation and entrepreneurship in each team’s local region.
Pilot Program Objectives
  • To enable a cohort of UK regional teams to swiftly apply elements of the MIT REAP frameworks to initiatives in their regions
  • To customise frameworks to the UK setting and teams, while at the same time retaining the MIT REAP core frameworks, methods, and elements for success and focusing on insights that support local productivity growth and local Industrial Strategies
  • Apply the MIT REAP core frameworks to the UK’s objective of enhancing the productivity of small and mid-size enterprises (SMEs) and innovation-driven enterprises (IDEs), including:
    • Applying a key approach to accelerating innovation ecosystems and its emphasis on how regions must build both entrepreneurial capacity (E-Cap) to start and grow businesses, and innovative capacity (I-Cap) to drive new ideas, adopt new technologies, and introduce these solutions into businesses
    • Understanding the role of innovation and technology in local productivity
    • Enabling better investment decisions at both local and national levels from comprehensive networks of stakeholders, including Entrepreneurs, Risk Capital Providers, Corporates, Academia, and Governments
  • To provide UK teams with the tools and insights needed to drive collective impact toward change, by:
    • Building consensus on their region’s unique assets, capabilities, and comparative advantages
    • Defining a strategy from MIT REAP frameworks that supports their regional local enterprise partnership (LEP)
    • Identifying (at least) one initial key strategic intervention for all regional stakeholders to collaborate on and drive forward
  • In partnership with BEIS and Loughborough University, to assess the outcomes and impact of UK teams’ strategic interventions on local business productivity growth
Progress to date

With the current COVID-19 crisis, the MIT REAP West Midlands cohort has recognised the need to support the region in preparing for the ‘recovery’ stage.  The team is currently focussed on delivering the following actions focussed on regional economic recovery:

  1. Customer Research – surveying entrepreneurs (SMEs) and Risk capital providers to analyse their view of the innovation ecosystem.  We aim to understand our regional portfolio of innovation actors (sector, maturity, profile, etc.) and identify the most vulnerable sectors and those that have the biggest economic impact on the region, so we can match them to appropriate business support.
  2. Assessing the ecosystem – developing a set of indicators to assess the capability to support Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the region. These indicators relate to human capital, funding, infrastructure, demand and culture and incentives. WM-REDI have led on matching these indicators with datasets, which compare the West Midlands regional figure with the National average.
  3. Mapping Current Business Support – this will let us see if we as a region are supporting the development and growth of ‘innovation-driven enterprises’ (IDEs) and if not what areas of business support need to change / gaps need to be addressed. For example, is there appropriate business support available to help firms to build resilience post COVID-19, around the re-purposing, re-positioning, and re-validating of their business?
  4. Identification of Innovation Driven Enterprises – these companies pursue global opportunities based on bringing to customers’ innovations, which have a clear competitive advantage and high growth potential (Aulet and Murray, 2013).

This blog was written by Dr Chloe Billing, Research Fellow, City-REDI / WM REDI, University of Birmingham. 

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The views expressed in this analysis post are those of the authors and not necessarily those of City-REDI / WM REDI, University of Birmingham.

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