An interview with CIMR member Prof Elvira Uyarra

Elvira Uyarra is Professor of Innovation Studies at Alliance Manchester Business School (University of Manchester), where she has recently also become Executive Director of the Manchester Institute of Innovation Research. To celebrate Elvira’s new appointment and her association with CIMR, we have asked her a few questions about her research interests, impact, plans for the future, including her engagement with CIMR.

Congratulations on your new appointment, Elvira! Could you please tell us a bit about your research interests?

Since my PhD days studying EU regional development policy I have been interested in how innovation policy can advance the dual objectives of territorial cohesion and economic competitiveness. Now the policy agenda has turned to the idea of missions and transformative change, and I am interested in the scalar and spatial implications of that. I currently teach and do research on several aspects of place-based innovation policy. I am for instance working on a project looking at the design of innovation policies for regional economic resilience and industrial restructuring. On another project we are looking at the effect of public procurement on productivity and levelling up. And a new project looks at whether and how ‘innovation districts’ can make places more resilient, sustainable and inclusive.  

What do you see as the main impacts of your work outside academia?

Some of my work has had some impact outside academia. For instance the work unpacking the idea of the ‘policy mix’ together with Kieron Flanagan and Manuel Laranja, which is a concept that is now well established in innovation policy debates. Also past work with colleagues Jakob Edler, Luke Georghiou and Kieron Flanagan on public procurement as an innovation policy tool, which we are now linking to the levelling up agenda in the UK in collaboration with the Connected Places Catapult. 

In general, I think interaction outside academia both challenges and enriches our research – in terms of the questions we ask and the assumptions we make. It is therefore necessary to have spaces for co-creation of ideas and mutual learning with policy makers and industry, as it can be really impactful both ways. 

What are your next plans, particularly in your new role as Executive Director of the Manchester Institute of Innovation Research?

Our next plan in the Institute is to strengthen the sense of being a member of a research community, and to build a supportive and inclusive research environment, particularly for early career scholars. I am particularly concerned about empowering the next generation of researchers to meet their potential.  

We are delighted to have had you as a member of CIMR for the past couple of years. What do you see as the key benefits of being part of the CIMR community?

I am very happy to be part of CIMR. it is a very vibrant community of scholars doing impactful research. 

I really enjoy the policy seminars and other research activities that CIMR organises. I have participated in some events and worked with CIMR colleagues in the organisation of workshops both at Birkbeck and Manchester and in joint publications (for instance a forthcoming special issue on measuring knowledge exchange in Studies of Higher Education). I look forward to continuing this collaboration. 

Thank you very much Elvira for sharing your research interests and plans with us. We are also looking forward to continuing our collaboration.

Elvira Uyarra in conversation with Federica Rossi