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Report Resources

The potential of coworking spaces to contribute to geographically distributed manufacturing activity and regional levelling up in the UK

Overview

Working from home, or telework, has been rising in the past 20 years, but large-scale adoption of this practice was never really embraced by the majority of UK employers. In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic ‘flicked a switch’ overnight, and all workers who were able to work remotely were compelled and facilitated to do so, through digital technologies.

Whilst many people who worked from home during the pandemic, many others found themselves with a lack of appropriate workspace, or experienced a sense of social isolation. As the pandemic subdued, patterns of work have evolved into more complex patterns of hybrid working.

The benefits and disadvantages of working remotely remain in this dichotomy of place – home or the office – yet new workspaces, such as coworking spaces (CWSs) offer a third option. Indeed, the growth of coworking spaces has grown significantly across the world since the pandemic, not only in cities, but also in the suburbs, towns and rural villages.

Other countries (across Europe and the USA) have recognised the potential of CWSs, to help deliver economic growth and develop places beyond their core cities. They have begun to develop explicit policies to support remote working from these places. However, there is a noticeable absence of this type of discussion in UK policy and the question is, why? Are they not popular in such areas of the UK, are they different to city-based CWSs, in what ways? What are the implications for the areas they are located in?

Our pilot study of CWSs in a number of provincial areas in England examined what CWSs in these areas look like, what they do, what are their governance structures and the potential they hold for raising entrepreneurship and business growth beyond core-cities. We interviewed owners, managers and users of CWSs; Chambers of Commerce, local councils, local enterprise partnerships. We made observations of a variety of CWSs types, business models and identified the range of their activities they undertook to support their local areas. We listened to how they were faring, their relationships with each other and other local bodies. Our findings are summarised in two reports. Whilst designed to sit as separate briefs, there is complementary in what they cover, and benefit from being read together.

The first report “The rapid rise of rural co-working in England: sharing experiences for mutual learning” is a briefing for industry. It identifies the activities undertaken across a range of CWSs and collates them to provide insights and suggestions to other CWS owners and managers about the best practices we observed, so that these might be considered by those who do not currently adopt them and strengthen the role of their CWS to its local economy further.

The second report “The potential of coworking spaces to stimulate local growth outside of major cities” is a briefing to local and national policymakers. It identifies more specifically, the contribution CWSs can make to various levels of community: the community within the CWS, the local business community around it, and the wider social community in which they reside. It also identifies areas in which the government could offer more support. The potential value CWSs bring to each level of community means they deserve to have greater attention from local and national policymakers as they grapple with how to stimulate local growth and prosperity across the UK.

This research was conducted by Dr. Felicia M Fai, Dr. Mariachiara Barzotto and Professor Phil Tomlinson (University of Bath). This work was supported by the UKRI Made Smarter Innovation Challenge and the Economic and Social Research Council via InterAct [Grant Reference ES/W007231/1].

For further discussions or potential applications/collaborations, please contact Felicia Fai.

Download “Report - The rapid rise of rural coworking in England: sharing experiences for mutual learning”

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Conference Resources

InterAct Conference 2023

As we embark on the next stage of our industrial evolution, digitalisation will shape the future of our economy, manufacturing ecosystem, and workplace. Digital technologies can enable us to create the future we want and move beyond consumption driven economic growth.

Our challenge is to create a digital manufacturing future that meets our net-zero ambitions, whilst being resilient and productive. Thus, ensuring that everyone has the things that they need, at a price that they can afford, without damaging the environment or society.

To create the digital manufacturing future we want, we first need to know how that can be achieved, we need to explore the possible and work together to realise these goals. In order to combine our expertise from the broadest range of perspectives around this common goal, we need to InterAct.

How did the InterAct conference benefit attendees?

  • Gaining actionable human insights into the future manufacturing environment.
  • Networking and building relationships with cross-sector experts interested in creating a positive, forward-thinking vision for UK industry.
  • Building narrative development skills to enhance the reach of messaging in the digital environment.
  • The opportunity to take part in a collaborative workshop on the theme ‘How do we create the digital manufacturing futures we want to see, together’.
  • Engagement with a panel of highly regarded speakers from the world of manufacturing, policy, and academia during an interactive Q&A session.

Speakers

We were delighted to welcome a roster of world-leading speakers, who shared unique insights and perspectives on their areas of expertise in relation to the theme of ‘Creating the digital manufacturing future we want’.

Our speakers were drawn from a wide range of backgrounds across industry, policy, think-tanks, and academia. Together they represent a diverse collection of voices that we want to draw into the wider conversation about what it will take to build a future that delivers for everyone.

Download “InterAct Conference sketches”

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Peter Cheese

Keynote Speaker

Chief Executive – Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD)

Peter is the CEO of the CIPD, the professional body for HR and People Development. Since January 2019, he has been co-chair of The Flexible Working Task Force, a partnership across government departments, business groups, trade unions and charities, to increase the uptake of flexible working. He is also Chair of Engage for Success and the What Works Centre for Wellbeing.

Peter writes and speaks widely on the development of HR, the future of work, and the key issues of leadership, culture and organisation, people and skills. In 2021, his second book ‘The New World of Work’ was published, exploring the many factors shaping work, workplaces, workforces and our working lives, and the principles around which we can build a future that is good for people, for business and for societies. 

Prior to joining the CIPD in 2012 Peter was Chair of the Institute of Leadership and Management, an Executive Fellow at London Business School, and held a number of Board level roles. He had a long career in consulting at Accenture working with organisations around the world, and in his last seven years there was Global Managing Director for the firm’s human capital and organisation consulting practice.

He is a Fellow of the CIPD, a Fellow of AHRI (the Australian HR Institute), the Royal Society of Arts, and the Academy of Social Sciences. He’s also a Companion of the Institute of Leadership and Management, the Chartered Management Institute, and the British Academy of Management. He holds honorary doctorates from Bath University, Kingston University and Birmingham City University, and is a Visiting Professor at Aston University.



Ben Armstrong

Keynote Speaker

Executive Director – Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) – Industrial Performance Center

Ben Armstrong is the executive director and a research scientist at MIT’s Industrial Performance Center, where he co-leads the Work of the Future initiative. His research and teaching examine how workers, firms, and regions adapt to technological change. His current projects include a working group on generative AI and its impact on work, as well as a book on American manufacturing competitiveness. He received his PhD from MIT and formerly worked at Google Inc.



David Rea

Speaker – Future of the Economy

Chief Economist – JLL

David is Chief Economist EMEA at JLL, one of the world’s largest commercial real estate services companies. At JLL, David advises the firm’s leadership and its clients on how the economy is evolving and the impact it will have on real estate. Prior to JLL, David spent six years as Chief Economist at Jaguar Land Rover and also led the company’s work to prepare for Brexit. He has previously held other economist positions at Capital Economics, RBS, and the Bank of Sierra Leone.


Professor Vania Sena

Speaker – Future of the Economy

InterAct Network – Future of the Economy: Principal Investigator
Chair in Entrepreneurship and Enterprise – University of Sheffield

Professor Sena’s first degree was awarded with laude by the University of Naples, Federico II, Naples, Italy; her postgraduate studies in Economics were carried out at the University of York, UK, where she was awarded both the MSc and the DPhil in Economics.

Her research focuses mainly on productivity growth, both at the micro and macro level with an emphasis on innovation, human capital and intellectual property. Her most recent research looks at the relationship among innovation activities,trade secrets and total factor productivity. She is a member of the Operational Society General Council and Board. She has been a visiting fellow at Harvard University, MA and at Rutgers University, NJ.

Vania is leading the InterAct workstream ‘The Future of the Economy’, which is examining the impact that the uptake of industrial digital technology in manufacturing will have on the wider economy and the implications of of this.


Dr. Adrienne Houston

Speaker – Future of Work

Company Director – Eurovacuum

Dr Adrienne Houston is Company Director at Eurovacuum Products Ltd. She is a Mechanical Engineering specialising in high vacuum and low pressure compressor systems and vacuum evaporator for the biogas, chemical and pharmaceutical industries.  

To complement her professional work, Adrienne is a keen promoter and champion of women in engineering, diversity and inclusion. In 2019 she was appointed by the Royal Academy of Engineering for the role of Diversity and Inclusion Visiting Professor at the University of Birmingham. She is a board member at the Research, Information and Knowledge committee at the Engineering Professors Council and Honorary Visiting Design Professor at the School of Engineering, University of Leicester. 


Professor Jillian MacBryde

Speaker – Future of Work

InterAct Network Co-director
Professor of Innovation and Operations Management – University of Strathclyde

Jill MacBryde is Professor of Innovation and Operations Management at Strathclyde University where she is also Director of the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship. Jill is Co-Director of the ESRC Made Smarter Network Plus, InterAct network, which aims to bring insights from the social sciences to support the innovation and diffusion of digital technologies that will result in a stronger, more resilient, manufacturing base.

The theme throughout Jill’s work is operations management in changing environments and her current research projects include productivity in manufacturing, the impact of Covid on UK manufacturing, and the future of manufacturing work. Jill also works with policy makers and the public sector. She is currently a member of the Innovate UK/ESRC Innovation Caucus and a member of the Innovate UK Future Flight Advisory Board.


Matt Tootle

Speaker – Future of Digital Manufacturing Ecosystems

Senior Business Analyst – Aerogility

Matt is an energetic and passionate leader who joined Aerogility with over 16 years’ experience in defence aerospace, primarily within support engineering and manufacturing. Matt’s specialisms include capturing and shaping complex customer requirements, designing and developing deliverable solutions and translating technical problems to non-technical individuals. Matt has extensive experience working with international customers and colleagues to deliver value to their operations. Matt’s current role sees him working across a variety of sectors to deliver innovative, model-based AI solutions to enable customers to better operate, sustain and optimise platforms, services and infrastructure.


Sue Williams

Speaker – Future of Digital Manufacturing Ecosystems

Managing Director – Hexagon Consultants

Sue Williams is a strategic and focused Supply Chain Director with over 25 years’ experience in multiple industries including automotive, aerospace, defence and FMEG as well as aftermarket and aftercare support.  Sue’s specialisms include supply chain design and modelling, inventory planning, demand management, S&OP and supply planning.  Sue has worked with organisations such as Jaguar Land Rover, Dyson, GKN and Meggitt among others, to deliver sustainable, high value change to their supply chains.  Sue was also the Head of Supply Chain for the Vaccine Taskforce, responsible for supply chain risk and resilience and the inbound modelling and planning for the vaccine supply.


Martin Bach

Speaker – Future of Digital Manufacturing Ecosystems

Martin Bach’s background is in process engineering and manufacturing management.  He has extensive business management experience in the UK, Europe and the US, running a wide range of businesses in the automotive and industrial sectors.  Most recently he was Managing Director of Cooksongold, the UK’s leading supplier of jewellery making materials and products.


Professor Janet Godsell

Speaker – Future of Digital Manufacturing Ecosystems

InterAct Network Co-director
Dean of Loughborough Business SchoolLoughborough University

Jan Godsell is Dean of Loughborough Business School and Professor of Operations and Supply Chain Strategy at Loughborough University. Her work focuses on the pursuit of more responsible consumption and production through the alignment of product, marketing, and supply chain strategy with consumer needs. Jan’s work focuses on the design of end-to-end supply chains to enable, responsibility, sustainability, resilience and productivity.

Jan is the workstream lead for ‘The Future of Digital Manufacturing Ecosystems’. This will examine how to develop more sustainable manufacturing business models, supply chains, and the role of innovative digital technologies (IDTs) in facilitating this shift.


Ved Sen

Keynote speaker

Head of Business Innovation – Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) UK

Ved is passionate about the impact of technology on business, culture, and society. He enjoys speaking and writing about technology and the future. He writes a weekly innovation newsletter, and is a regular speaker at industry forums. He has been a guest lecturer at the HSE Ireland Masters in Digital Healthcare Programme in Dublin for the past 3 years, and a regular speaker on AI and future systems.

Ved works as the Head of Business Innovation for Tata Consultancy Services UK. His primary focus is to help drive future thinking conversations with clients in solving tomorrow’s problems. He has been working with and advising senior clients across retail, travel, education, healthcare, financial services, public sector, and other businesses. Ved runs an innovation team in London and is leading the design and set up of Pace Port London. Currently his work spans areas such as reinventing social care for the elderly, connected homes and environments, and urban mobility, Generative AI, and more. Over the past 20+ years, Ved has been working on emerging technologies, and their adoption into organisations. An avid writer and regular speaker, Ved’s book “Doing Digital” was released in January 2023, and he writes a regular innovation newsletter.  


Fhaheen Khan

Panellist

Senior Economist – Make UK

Fhaheen Khan is a Senior Economist at Make UK, the manufactures organisation. His role primarily focusses on monitoring and evaluating the economic performance of manufacturers, which is published in a quarterly outlook report. In addition, Fhaheen’s role covers a myriad of topics relevant to manufacturing to advise Government bodies to develop policy with a focus on tax, investment and the business environment and is a regular commentator on public statistics.


Ben Farmer

Panellist

Deputy Director – Made Smarter Innovation Challenge

Ben is the Deputy Director of the Innovate UK-led £300 million Made Smarter Innovation Challenge; a collaboration between UK government and industry designed to support the development and novel application of industrial digital technologies.

Prior to this, Ben held positions at HiETA Technologies, Airbus Group, University of Bath and Cobham. He is also founder of Added Lightness, a technology strategy consulting business, and Atherton Bikes, which brings together multiple-world champion and world cup winning athletes with the latest composite and additive manufacturing technologies.

Ben holds a degree in Materials Science and Engineering and an MBA from the University of Bath, a PhD in Materials Science and Metallurgy from the University of Cambridge and is a Chartered Engineer.

Categories
Future of Digital Manufacturing Ecosystems Report Resources

Future of Digital Manufacturing Ecosystems – 2040 scenarios

Overview

Disruption, digital innovation, new business models… the world of manufacturing is changing rapidly, perhaps faster than ever before. To adapt and survive, businesses must anticipate changes, identify opportunities and make informed decisions.
 
So, how can you be ready for the changes that lie ahead? How can you pivot to be equally productive and sustainable, delivering progress with purpose?
 
The InterAct Future of Digital Manufacturing Ecosystems research team has put together a vital report that brings you the information you need, at your fingertips, outlining potential future scenarios and the associated opportunities for the manufacturing world.
 
Future of Digital Marketing Ecosystems – 2040 Scenarios

These scenarios map out four potential alternatives for the digital manufacturers of tomorrow, including:

  • Productivity Powerhouse
  • Flexibility as Standard
  • Sustainability Champion
  • Happy and Sustainable Workforce

Download the report to find out more about how the most useful measure of sustainable progress is total factor productivity, which accounts for inputs beyond labour – such as materials, energy and administrative time – to compare them against total outputs. You will also learn how these inputs can be measured against one another, and how businesses can begin working towards achieving them.

As the report shows, by considering the human factors behind digitalisation today, you’ll be much better placed to build true resilience into your business tomorrow.

This research was conducted by Dr. Wanrong Zhang, Professor Janet Godsell and Dr. Kamran Chatha (Loughborough University). This work was supported by the UKRI Made Smarter Innovation Challenge and the Economic and Social Research Council via InterAct [Grant Reference ES/W007231/1].

For further discussions or potential applications/collaborations, please contact Jan Godsell.

Download “Report - Future of Digital Manufacturing Ecosystems: 2040 scenarios”

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Link Publication Report Resources

EU battery regulations 2023: UK readiness for battery passports and smart labelling

Overview

With the enactment of the new EU Battery Regulations, organisations are required to embrace Battery Passports and Smart Labelling, enabling transparency and sustainability in battery production and consumption. Recent research from InterAct funded researchers, however, highlights critical gaps in awareness, information availability, and operational readiness faced by UK organisations in aligning with these legislative changes. 
 
A representative survey was conducted to gauge the awareness and preparedness of 80 organisations in regard to the new EU Battery Regulations. An Industry-Academic round table discussion and follow-up interviews were then held to reflect on the implications for industry.  The results can be downloaded in the two reports below.

This research was conducted by Dr. Melanie King and Paul Timms (Loughborough University). This work was supported by the UKRI Made Smarter Innovation Challenge and the Economic and Social Research Council via InterAct [Grant Reference ES/W007231/1].

For further discussions or potential applications/collaborations, please contact Melanie King.

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Report Resources

Women in manufacturing: the case for a gender-transformative digitalisation

We are at a crossroads, with the opportunity either to progress towards a more equitable manufacturing landscape or to deepen existing gaps. The digitalisation of manufacturing provides a chance to transform the sector into a more inclusive and diverse one. However, if we do not take intentional and proactive steps, this digital transformation could instead reinforce prevailing norms and deepen gender inequalities.

The project ‘Women in digital manufacturing’ brought together academics and practitioners to raise awareness about the challenges that women face when participating in manufacturing, while highlighting the transformative potential of digital technologies in creating a more diverse and inclusive manufacturing sector.

This policy brief aims to inspire and inform gender-transformative initiatives that challenge unequal gender relations and discriminatory norms and practices within the manufacturing sector. It offers insights into the state of women’s and men’s participation in manufacturing, and through the narratives of accomplished professionals in the field, it unveils the barriers that women face to enter and advance in this sector. The policy brief offers practical recommendations for businesses, industry associations, and research and government organisations to promote gender diversity and inclusion within the UK manufacturing sector.

This research was conducted by Dr. Jennifer Castañeda-Navarrete, (IfM Engage, University of Cambridge). This work was supported by the UKRI Made Smarter Innovation Challenge and the Economic and Social Research Council via InterAct [Grant Reference ES/W007231/1].

For further discussions or potential collaborations, please contact Jennifer Castañeda–Navarrete.

Download “Policy brief - The case for a gender-transformative digitalisation”

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Report Resources Tool Video Webinar

Business model innovation and digital servitization in UK manufacturing small and medium sized enterprises

This project explores the application of digital servitization business models in the context of UK Manufacturing Small to Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs), by empirically depicting its antecedents and firm-level implications. Following the completion of a large empirical study, the key contextual and organisational factors that determine successful implementation of business models have been identified. The study’s key findings suggest that SMEs can achieve high performance through adoption of digital servitization business models, depending on how well each model aligns with the organisation’s context and design.  

To assist the UK Manufacturing community, in addition to the main report, the project’s deliverables are accessible to stakeholders through its dedicated microsite, SME toolkit, video training manual and practitioner webinar.

Download “Report - Business model innovation and digital servitization in UK manufacturing small and medium sized enterprises”

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Project microsite 

The microsite provides SMEs with a valuable resource that practitioners can engage with, to better understand digital servitization and its corresponding business models. Developed in an illustrative manner, the microsite provides a visual overview of the study’s data and key findings and constitutes the project’s primary means of impact on business practice. 

SME toolkit 

A key project output, the self-assessment toolkit aspires to assist SME principal decision-makers in diagnosing the contextual and organisational conditions of their business and determine the suitability of digital servitization business models. Toolkit users are invited to complete an anonymised questionnaire and in turn, they receive a recommendation of which business model might represent the best match to their current conditions. 

Video training manual 

The video training manual represents a step-by-step guide to the toolkit and provides users with the key terms of interest and the process of answering the toolkit questions.  

Online webinar 

As a primary dissemination activity, the project’s first ex-post webinar has been delivered in early August 2023 to raise awareness about the project, communicate the study’s findings and promote the publication of the main report and its accompanying intellectual outputs. 

This research was conducted by Dr. Dimitrios Dousios and Dr. Antonios Karatzas (University of East Anglia). This work was supported by the UKRI Made Smarter Innovation Challenge and the Economic and Social Research Council via InterAct [Grant Reference ES/W007231/1].

For further discussions or potential applications/collaborations, please contact Antonios Karatzas.

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Future of Work Resources

‘Making Things Work’ – Perceptions of Manufacturing

The Future of Work team has recently completed a survey of 2107 representative people drawn from across the UK to provide insights into their perceptions of the manufacturing sector and jobs. The primary aim of this survey is to better understand UK public perceptions of the manufacturing industry and jobs, and what factors shape these views and opinions. We were interested in examining a range of issues:

  • Whether people still value (and how positive they feel about) manufacturing in the post-industrial economy, and their awareness of manufacturing in the media
  • What people associate with manufacturing work and jobs, and what qualities they are looking for in jobs that need to be reflected in job offers to attract talent
  • The perceived quality of manufacturing jobs for those currently working in (or familiar with) the sector and whether people would encourage others to enter the sector
  • How new manufacturing technologies are likely to change future jobs and careers in manufacturing
  • How can the sector best attract emerging young and ‘untapped’ talent?

In the ‘war for talent’ perceptions matter because they provide a snapshot of public opinion about the attraction of the sector and working in manufacturing. They may not measure up against ‘reality’, they may be ‘misinformed’ but ultimately this matters more to many of the people we interviewed than employers and industry stakeholders. However, if you are wondering how people in the UK look at the sector, or how employers should be best positioned to attract people into manufacturing, ignore them at your peril.

Our results throw up some surprising and interesting findings that we hope will be useful to a range of key audiences: academics, employers, industry stakeholders and UK policy makers.

Our findings indicate:

  • People still value manufacturing but visibility is lacking
  • Images of manufacturing work are putting people off
  • Job quality matters in manufacturing
  • The digital future looks bright but there are concerns about downskilling and job destruction
  • Attracting future talent means more good people practice

Our key messages for employers and industry stakeholders:

  • Keep talking up the value of your sector, people know you are essential and valuable, but the media reach and messaging of the sector isn’t reflecting that effectively.
  • Legacy images of old-fashioned manufacturing work impact negatively on how people look at jobs and careers in the sector. Although job quality is reasonable for many manufacturing workers, more needs to be done selling this message outside the sector to hard-to-reach groups such as women and minorities.
  • People anticipate that new technologies will improve the quality of future manufacturing jobs but have concerns about job destruction and its likely impact on opportunities and job security.
  • Going forward, attracting new talent will mean employers making greater investments in positive people practices in areas such as well-being, flexible working, and inclusive workspaces.

This work was conducted by Dr. Robert Stewart, Professor Jillian MacBryde, Professor Colin Lindsay and Dr. Carolina Marin-Cadavid (University of Strathclyde). This work was supported by the UKRI Made Smarter Innovation Challenge and the Economic and Social Research Council via InterAct [Grant Reference ES/W007231/1].

For further discussions and information about this research, please contact Robert Stewart.

Download “Report - Making Things Work - Perceptions of Manufacturing”

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Download “Perceptions of manufacturing - survey findings infographics”

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Future of Digital Manufacturing Ecosystems Resources

Delivering the digital future we want, together

On Thursday 8th June, InterAct Co-director, Professor Janet Godsell delivered a talk on the progress of the Future of Digital Manufacturing Ecosystems workstream to an audience at the Smart Factory Expo in the NEC, Birmingham.

In her talk, Professor Godsell addressed the need for self-sufficiency in critical production, lessons from the manufacturing past and the work of the Future of Digital Manufacturing Ecosystems team on analysing scenarios for the future.

Download “Slide deck - Delivering the digital future we want, together”

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Link Resources

Industrial strategy: a manufacturing ambition

The UK manufacturing sector is an essential contributor to the country’s economy generating £206bn gross valued added in 2022 a fifth higher than a decade ago. It accounts for around half our exports, two thirds of spending on research and development and accounts for a significant level of business investment. The sector employs around 2.6m highly skilled people across the UK, many of them in areas that need levelling up. In short manufacturing matters to the prosperity and security of the UK.

The sector is now at a critical juncture. Ten years ago Make UK (then EEF) set out its case for an industrial strategy. Since then we have had six plans for growth but now find ourselves without one.

There is broad agreement among stakeholders about what the UK needs for a successful industrial strategy. These can be broadly categorised into five themes, skills; infrastructure; finance; innovation and the business environment. To these can now be added significant shifts in the policy landscape from the post Brexit and pandemic landscape, the transition to net zero, rapidly accelerating technologies spinning out from the fourth industrial revolution and the political imperative to spread growth more evenly across the UK.

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Resources Video

Storytelling Fellowship videos

The Storytelling Fellowship programme is a core element of the InterAct Network. It aims to harness the power of stories to learn from, and address, the human aspects of the diffusion of new technologies in industry. These human aspects include themes such as:

• Productivity
• Resilience
• Competitiveness
• Sustainability
• Levelling-up/inclusion
• Wellbeing

Our Storytelling Fellows have created a growing archive of digital, video stories that you can access below: