Anchor Institutions and Regional Innovation Systems for supporting micro and small businesses
The after-shocks of the global financial crisis, the EU Referendum, the growth in popularity of the Regional Innovation System (RIS), and the growing use of the term anchor institutions, have highlighted the crucial and strategic contribution certain types of organisation can make to their local community. Drawing on contemporary literature on the entrepreneurial university and regional innovation systems, I explore some key qualities and problems around universities as anchor institutions, and also the role they can play for Micro and Small Businesses (MSBs). Following recent UK Public Spending and Department of Business Innovation and Skills remit changes, I also highlight the way universities should - and must - take a lead role as an anchor institution within their region, especially in light of the recent Brexit decision. Such a role will include providing a wide range of formal and informal support, knowledge and resources targeted at micro and small businesses (MSBs), complementing usual Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) support (Wilson, 2011). Drawing on my experiences as President of the Institute of Small Business & Entrepreneurship (ISBE), I offer four different ways to enhance collaboration to enable MSBs to make maximum use of “anchor university” support. Findings suggest a need for regional policy makers to embrace an innovation-supportive culture; one that would enable firms and systems to evolve over time, with anticipated outcomes far in excess of those envisaged from recent UK Government spending and business support changes. Such changes will close and replace some robustly evaluated programmes, designed to support small firm growth, with a Government commitment to cut red tape and by increasing the take up of business rate relief for an extra year.