Leeds City Region Team to Reap Rewards from MIT Leadership Program

Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership May 24, 2018

Leeds City Region team has successfully bid for a place on a prestigious leadership programme run by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), one of the world’s top universities.

The two-year Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Programme (REAP) provides expert, evidence-based guidance for teams to bring about significant economic and social change in their region.

MIT selects up to nine regional teams each year from around the world, involving leaders from government, business and industry, academia, finance and representatives from the entrepreneurial community.


Since the programme started in 2012, nations and cities that have been helped by the programme to shape their economic and societal fortunes include Beijing, Scotland, London, Tokyo and Qatar.

The Leeds City team includes leaders from the University of Leeds, Nexus, the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and West Yorkshire Combined Authority, Leeds City Council, KPMG, Arup, Leeds Academic Health Partnership, and entrepreneurs Adam Beaumont and Ben Ziff.

Collective force

Professor Lisa Roberts, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation at the University of Leeds led the Leeds bid and is the team “champion” for the programme. She said:

“This is a significant opportunity for us to come together as a collective force to further develop our ambitious innovation and growth plans.

“MIT has clearly identified the region as having key strengths to support the UK economy, in particular the Government’s plans for boosting growth and productivity.

“We have clear challenges that need to be addressed if we are to help drive economic growth. This includes supporting existing transformational projects, like the University’s new innovation centre, Nexus, which could act as a catalyst for developing the Innovation District in Leeds, as well as supporting skills, increasing connectivity, growing business spend on research and development, and boosting productivity and exports.

“Above all, this is also about driving positive social change for the region, and ensuring that innovation and enterprise initiatives support all residents and that everyone benefits and shares in the city’s economic success.”

Northern Powerhouse Minister, Jake Berry, said:

“I am proud that Leeds City Region is the first area outside of London to be selected for the prestigious Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Programme from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“Leeds is following in the footsteps of some of the world’s most iconic cities including Beijing, London and Tokyo who have all participated in this esteemed leadership programme. As a hub for cutting-edge digital technology and financial services, Leeds is set to become a ‘Canary North’ of the Northern Powerhouse, driving forward innovation and supercharging growth within the region.”


Roger Marsh OBE, Chair of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership, said:

“I welcome the successful bid to the MIT. As we know, the Leeds City Region has huge economic potential but also faces a number of key challenges that it needs to address if it is to fulfil its ambitions.

“The learning from this programme will contribute significantly to our understanding of how to tackle the productivity gap, low investment in research and development, and falling living standards as well as persistent pockets of stubborn deprivation that bedevil us.

“As Chair of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership, I am determined to ensure that businesses and academic institutions across the whole City Region will both contribute and benefit.”

With three million people[1], the Leeds City Region is the UK’s largest outside London and generates more than 5% of the UK’s economic outputs. While it has achieved strong economic progress in recent years which mirrors national trends, like other northern economies, it has experienced growth at a slower rate.

Its potential includes more than 125,000 businesses[2], with strengths in medtech, health innovation, creative and digital sectors, and Leeds also represents the largest financial services sector in the UK outside London[3].

Five critical challenges have been identified:

  1. Low productivity levels that are significantly below the national average.
  2. Employment is below the national average.
  3. The proportion of people with higher level skills is also below the national average.
  4. Industry investment in R&D is significantly below the national average.
  5. Transport infrastructure needs urgent improvement to bolster productivity in the North.

Dr Martin Stow, Director of Nexus said:

“Leeds City Region already has a strong regional ecosystem and our inclusion on MIT REAP will strengthen this further by accelerating economic growth, creating more jobs and making the region more attractive to growing businesses.

“Nexus, the new innovation centre at the University of Leeds, will be instrumental in helping organisations to achieve innovation-driven entrepreneurship (IDE) and REAP will enable us to further stimulate IDE across the Leeds City Region. This couldn’t be more timely as REAP commences just as the Nexus initiative gains momentum and we are delighted to be part of something that will deliver such tangible benefits across the region.”

As part of the Northern Powerhouse agenda, the region is also well placed to benefit from improved collaboration and connectivity with other cities in the North, creating business networks and labour markets of genuine critical mass across an area of 7.2 million jobs[4], and a £329.5 billion annual economy[5].

Professor Roberts continued:

“If the North of England was a separate country it would be the world’s 21st largest economy. Our ambitious plans to address productivity and focus on regional strengths are more important than ever before in supporting the North and UK growth. Being part of this prestigious programme marks a significant commitment to tackling some opportunities and challenges together.”

The two year programme, run by the Sloan School of Management at MIT, will start in October 2018. The teams in the 2018 cohort include Campania (Italy), Central Denmark, Guangzhou (China), Guayaquil (Ecuador), Kentucky (USA), Leeds City (UK), Monterrey (Mexico), Oslo and Akershus (Norway) and Sydney (Australia).

Find out more about the Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program from the MIT Innovation Initiative website.  Details about the new 2018 cohort can be found here.


[1] Leeds City Region HS2 Growth Strategy
[2] LCR business count is 126,245 (2017), source IDBR ONS October 2017 – based on local unit definition.
[3] LCR is the largest financial services sector outside London (financial intermediation and insurance) with 51,000 people in employment (source BRES ONS 2016)
[4] Leeds City Region HS2 Growth Strategy
[5] Northern Powerhouse Economy – 3 Northern Regions’ current official GVA estimate is £329.5 billion (2016) ONS December 2017 – using the new balanced GVA approach.

Leeds City Region team participants

  • Justine Andrew, Market Director for Education and Skills, KPMG
  • Adam Beaumont, founder and CEO aql & Northinvest
  • Tom Bridges, Director, Cities Advisory, Arup
  • Roger Marsh OBE, Chair of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and member of West Yorkshire Combined Authority
  • Tom Riordan, Chief Executive, Leeds City Council
  • Lisa Roberts, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation, University of Leeds
  • Martin Stow, Nexus Director, University of Leeds
  • Jo-Anne Wass, Chief Operating Officer, Leeds Academic Health Partnership
  • Ben Ziff, Managing Director of Citipark at Town Centre Securities

Previous participants on REAP

  • Cohort 1 members (2012-2014) included: Scotland (UK), Finland, New Zealand, Andalucía (Spain), Hangzhou (China), Veracruz (Mexico) and Istanbul (Turkey).
  • Cohort 2 members (2014-2016) include: London (UK), Singapore, Seoul (South Korea), Qatar, Moscow (Russia), Morocco, Puerto Rico (USA) and Valencia (Spain).
  • Cohort 3 members (2015-2017) include: Wales (UK), Santiago (Chile), Ashdod (Israel), Al Madinah (Saudi Arabia), Tokyo (Japan), Beijing (China), SW Norway, Bangkok (Thailand).
  • Cohort 4 members (2016 – 2018) include: Dubai (United Arab Emirates), Iceland, Lagos (Nigeria), Madrid (Spain), Nova Scotia (Canada), Lima (Puru)
  • Cohort 5 members (2017 – 2019) include: Algeria, Ghana, King Abdullah Economic City, Lebanon, Melbourne (Australia), Queensland (Australia).
  • Cohort 6 members (2018 – 2020) include: Campania (Italy), Central Denmark, Guangzhou (China), Guayaquil (Ecuador), Kentucky (USA), Leeds City (UK), Monterrey (Mexico), Oslo and Akershus (Norway) and Sydney (Australia).

Impact of programme: Case studies

Hangzhou: economics driven by traditional manufacturing but Hangzhou needed to find a new model for supporting emerging technologies. The team’s challenge was to support start-ups progress to the next level and show local entrepreneurs that entrepreneurship in China is profitable. Activities included joint initiatives by local government and angel investors to support the Hangzhou entrepreneurial ecosystem, including several Fudi Startup Incubator Centres in the city.

Finland: The main challenge focused on improving efficiency of the current entrepreneurial support networks and inspiring global ambition among Finnish entrepreneurs. The team also wanted to raise entrepreneurship ecosystem development to the next level of national policy. The Prime Minister’s Office contacted the team about making the start-up issue one of the key development areas in the future. The team also launched Finland’s Innovative Cities Program to create internationally attractive innovation clusters

Scotland: The team identified the challenge was not a lack of start ups, but lack of growth, and relatively low research and development investment. The subsequent strategy launched of a three-year Entrepreneurship Support Programme, as well as targeted interventions. These included Scottish Edge, a competition to address the shortage of seed capital, Entrepreneurial Scotland, an organisation focused on high-growth entrepreneurship, and a Global Ambitions Network.