The Synergy Project was a six month pilot exploring ways to strengthen the innovation ecosystem in the Sheffield City Region.

The project ran during 2021 and a final report was published in September that year.

The website formed part of the communications activity to support the project. We also used it to share progress and ideas, gather and disseminate information and explore simple interventions that could help foster a more joined-up ecosystem.

“Innovation has a transformative effect on the economy. In every economy around the world, the most innovative firms and industries are also the most productive. Sheffield City Region is seeking to accelerate the intensity of innovation activities in order to drive economic development.

“Maintaining the status quo is not going to unlock transformative growth.  We need incremental as well as transformational improvement of existing products, process and services, alongside the discovery and commercialisation of new ideas, capabilities and designs.”

— Sheffield City Region Strategic Economic Plan, 2020-2040.

Please read on to find out more about the Synergy Project or download the report in full HERE

Starting in March 2020, Sheffield City Region (SCR) participated in a pilot of a “light” version of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program (MIT REAP). 

The MIT REAP methodology sets out how regions can take a data-driven approach to analysing the strengths and weaknesses of their capacity for innovation and entrepreneurship, in order to create and nurture Innovation Driven Enterprises (IDEs).

The Synergy Project was a six month pilot during 2021, designed to follow up and build on the initial progress that SCR made through its participation in MIT REAP.

Please read on to find out more about the background to the project and what it set out to achieve.

Image credit: Skye Studios on Unsplash 

According to MIT REAP, an Innovation Driven Enterprise (IDE) is an enterprise that pursues global opportunity based on bringing to customers new innovations that have a clear competitive advantage and high growth potential. The term “new innovations” refers to new-to-the-world ideas in the technical, market, process or business model domain – innovation is not limited to technology. IDEs may be existing businesses or start-ups.

What happened in 2020?

By the end of 2020, the SCR team had used the MIT REAP methodology to explore and gain a fresh perspective on the state of the region’s innovation ecosystem – working closely with a ‘Core Team’ made up of representatives from both Sheffield universities plus the public and private sector. Using online workshops and a survey, they were able to gather some initial thoughts from a variety of local stakeholders, identifying some challenges and ideas around what needs to be developed or changed. 

Read our Project Updates for the latest progress.

What were the aims of the project?

One of the key challenges raised in the initial engagement with stakeholders was the need to do a better job of connecting people and assets across the region – this is one of the tasks that this pilot sought to address. In addition, we explored questions such as:

Is there a need for a culture change in the region and how might that be achieved?

How do we create a clear pathway for entrepreneurs?

How do we encourage more graduates to set up IDEs that are based in the region?

Will providing more role models, mentoring and networking opportunities be useful and how might these activities be enabled?

During the course of the pilot, we set out to conduct research, in-depth interviews and group interactions in order to:

Identify the barriers to the formation of IDEs in the SCR

Explore our regional innovation ecosystem, identifying what works, what doesn’t and where there are gaps

Formulate and test out activities designed to strengthen the ecosystem and encourage IDEs to start and to thrive

We also planned to gather and share case studies and examples of best practice.

Read Project Updates

Who was involved?

The Synergy Project was run by Ceri Batchelder and Mel Kanarek. 

The work was funded by Sheffield City Region, Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council, Sheffield Hallam University and the University of Sheffield.