New report calls on mayors to adopt new model for growth and innovation


“Quadruple Helix” approach combines local government, business, academia and citizens in four-way collaboration.

On the eve of the UK’s Real Estate Investment and Infrastructure Forum (UKREiiF), local government leaders are being challenged to adopt new, collaborative models for truly inclusive growth by bringing together government, business, academia, and citizen stakeholders for the first time.

The call comes from the authors of a report which calls for new approaches to how we plan, fund and deliver regional plans for economic growth in order to achieve sustainable futures, as well as fast-tracking innovation and opportunities for individual regions. It argues that productivity and place-based growth is improved not just by technology and other economic drivers but by full interaction between these four key stakeholder groups.

The report is being launched by the N8 Research Partnership, a collaboration of the eight most research intensive universities in the North of England, and AtkinsRéalis, a fully integrated professional services and project management company.

Place-Based Growth, Innovation and the Quadruple Helix is published today and its findings will be discussed at a panel discussion including members of the N8 and regional mayors on Wednesday 22nd May, at the UKREiiF event in Leeds.

Central to the report is the idea of the Quadruple Helix funding model, conceived by Durham University. It calls for closer interaction between industry, academia, government, and citizen stakeholders for innovation to succeed, and highlights the benefits of early engagement in design, delivery, and implementation of technological advancements.

The N8 Research Partnership is now calling on local government leaders, newly elected and re-elected mayors to work with stakeholders to adopt its framework to drive economic growth in the UK.

The universities recommend that the Northern Mayors and Local Authorities in the North consider convening a Quadruple Helix ‘open forum’ in their areas in order to consider the benefits of the approach. As a business, AtkinsRéalis is ready to support the initiative and to participate in any subsequent actions and initiatives.

Kieran Fernandes, Associate Pro-Vice Chancellor at Durham University, said:

“We see this report and its finding very much as the starting point. So as we move forward from the exploratory phase, the focus shifts towards concrete actions and the implementation of the Quadruple Helix model in real-world settings.

“This is why we at the N8 Research Partnership have made a bold recommendation that the Northern Mayors and Local Authorities in the North convene a Quadruple Helix ‘open forum’ in their areas in order to consider the benefits of the Quadruple Helix approach and the development of a clear action plan. We hope this suggestion is well received.”

The N8 and AtkinsRéalis worked together on a series of stakeholder workshops across the North during the first quarter of the year to identification region-specific areas for innovation and economic acceleration through greater collaboration.

The first workshop was held at Durham University in February 2024 and focused on Net Zero. The University of York hosted the second workshop in March on Advanced Manufacturing, with the third taking place in April at the University of Liverpool, focussing on AI and Digital.

John Rayson, Managing Director North, UK & Ireland for AtkinsRéalis, adds:

“We need new approaches to how we plan, fund and deliver regional plans for economic growth. The Quadruple Helix model takes a holistic and collaborative view of how innovation and region-specific opportunities can be identified and cultivated through the engagement and input of public sector, private sector, local industry, and citizen stakeholders.

“That is why we are committed to supporting the N8 in its goal of taking this great idea for funding growth and working with local government and stakeholders to take those crucial next steps in making it work for people.”

Dr Annette Bramley, Director of the N8 Research Partnership, commented:

“The findings of this report reflect N8’s desire to work collectively and constructively with elected mayors across our region to deliver clean business growth and community benefit, fairly and justly. This would go a long way to addressing and unlocking the multiple challenges of productivity – health and wellbeing, business performance, and investment and infrastructure – creating a brighter future for all people in the North of England.”

The partnership believes that for people to flourish within their communities, there needs to be good transport connections, access to skills and innovation, better public spaces, and a greater emphasis on the wellbeing of people and the environment around them.

As such the open forum initiative would allow people to communicate their own aspirations, needs, and knowledge and would be designed to promote broad interactions from stakeholders ranging from school age children to politicians and local government. From there, the development of a clear action plan would be the next step.

Read the full report here