11 May 2018

Leeds City team to reap rewards from MIT leadership programme


A Leeds City 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 eight 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.

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.”

With three million people, 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[1], with strengths in medtech, health innovation, creative and digital sectors, and Leeds also represents the largest financial services sector in the UK outside London[2].

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

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[3], and a £329.5 billion annual economy[4].

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).


Further information

Further quotes are offered below. Contact the University of Leeds press office on 0113 343 4031 or email pressoffice@leeds.ac.uk for interviews.

For more information about the programme, visit http://reap.mit.edu/ 

Details about the new 2018 cohort can be found here: http://reap.mit.edu/community

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, 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

Quotes from participant organisations:

Leader of Leeds City Council, Councillor Judith Blake, said: “We are delighted that Leeds has been selected for a place on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Programme. MIT is known and recognised for excellence the world over, so we are very much looking forward to working with them to develop ideas and new ways of working to promote innovation and growth in our economy to improve the lives of all our residents. It is also a strong vote of confidence in the growing reputation of Leeds and the Leeds City Region on an international level that they have chosen to work with us ahead of other bids from around the world.”

Justine Andrew, Director at KPMG in Leeds, commented: “This is a fantastic chance to really think about what ‘makes Leeds, Leeds’ and how we can build out from our strengths. We are really pleased to be working with key stakeholders across the city, and now MIT, to make our ambitions for the region a reality. The rise of ‘Brand Yorkshire’ has already played an important part in creating a thriving business community and bolstering civic pride. Now we have a unique opportunity to take this to the next level, leveraging global best practice to deliver real social progress and accelerate economic growth.”

Professor Adam Beaumont, CEO of aql and Northinvest, adds: “I believe the REAP programme will help us work closer together to build the growth ecosystem we need. As a founder of enabler organisations in technology and investment, I’m excited to look to the experienced team at MIT to help us drive our capability for pan-Northern growth by helping us distil our regional strategy.”

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.”

Jo-Anne Wass, Chief Operating Officer for Leeds Academic Health Partnership, said: “The MIT REAP programme is an exciting and important opportunity to underpin the work we’ve started with our partners in Leeds. It will prove invaluable in helping us achieve our aims to drive healthcare innovation, reduce health inequalities and attract inclusive economic investment for our city and city region.”

Ben Ziff, Managing Director of CitiPark & TCS Energy, said: "We are very much looking forward to working with the team at MIT to expand the potential in the Leeds City Region, and to add our own learnings and research to this programme in order to help tackle the challenges that have been identified, especially in the areas of investment in R&D. CitiPark and TCS are very proud of our contribution towards improving the transport infrastructure in the Northern Powerhouse and beyond. Working together with our partners on the Leeds City Region team, we are committed to taking Leeds to the next level and helping it to thrive by addressing, supporting and building on the Leeds City Region's innovation and growth plans for the area."

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. http://reap.mit.edu/cohort/hangzhou-china/

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.



Further information

The University of Leeds is one of the largest higher education institutions in the UK, with more than 33,000 students from more than 150 different countries, and a member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities. We are a top ten university for research and impact power in the UK, according to the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, and are in the top 100 for academic reputation in the QS World University Rankings 2018. Additionally, the University was awarded a Gold rating by the Government’s Teaching Excellence Framework in 2017, recognising its ‘consistently outstanding’ teaching and learning provision. www.leeds.ac.uk

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The Leeds Academic Health Partnership brings together leading expertise from all of Leeds’ NHS organisations, three of the city’s universities and Leeds City Council. The Partnership, one of the biggest of its kind in the UK, identifies, attracts and implements innovation and inward investment that responds to the challenges facing health and care, including reducing health inequalities across the city. http://www.leedsacademichealthpartnership.org

The Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership works with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority to help businesses in our region grow and become more productive. The Combined Authority works in partnership with local councils and businesses to ensure that everyone in our region benefits from a strong, successful economy and a modern, accessible transport network. By championing the region’s interests nationally and internationally, we secure the investment to deliver better transport and housing, help businesses to grow and create jobs. We want our region to be recognised globally as a strong, successful economy where everyone can build great businesses, careers and lives. www.westyorks-ca.gov.uk.

aql is a global telecommunications operator supporting some of the largest technology scale-ups. https://www.aql.com. Northinvest is a not-for-profit organisation which is dedicated to finding investment and mentorship for entrepreneurs and startups across the Northern Powerhouse. https://northinvest.co.uk

[1] LCR business count is 126,245 (2017), source IDBR ONS October 2017 – based on local unit definition.

[2] LCR is the largest financial services sector outside London (financial intermediation and insurance) with 51,000 people in employment (source BRES ONS 2016)

[3] Leeds City Region HS2 Growth Strategy

[4] Northern Powerhouse Economy – 3 Northern Regions’ current official GVA estimate is £329.5 billion (2016) ONS December 2017 – using the new balanced GVA approach.

For media enquiries contact:

Leeds City Council Communications team