January 2016

Welcome to January’s L and D Newsletter…

Bowie as Mime 1966
David Bowie as Mime, 1966

David Bowie died in New York on 10th January aged 69.  A master of reinvention, this blog pays tribute to him with a selection of images from across the decades.  Along with the images you will find a series of quotes which reflect his dedication to self-improvement and not resting on past achievements.

In This Edition…

1. CLoG Activities
2. BIS and DCLG Opportunities
3. Across the Country…and Beyond
4. News and Reviews

1. CLoG Activities

365 in 100 L & Challenge – Target SMASHED

Thursday 14 January was the 100th day of our L & D challenge.  390 individual pieces of L & D were completed across the team in that time, so a target well and truly met.

The best performers by DD team (weighted average score) were

  1. Laurence Rockey – 5 opportunities completed per team member
  2. Louise Morgan – 4.4
  3. Kirsty Pierce  – 4.2
  4. Mark Livesey – 3.4

The top three most popular types of L&D were:

  1. Events/Visits  – 142
  2. Teach Ins  – 114
  3. Formal Training  – 54

CLoG Career Development Offer

Colleagues (including Jonny Wright and Amrit Bangard) are developing a CLoG Career Development Offer building on the recent round of career conversations. This should be launched at the next L&D day on 17th March. Jonny and Amrit are really keen for suggestions and/or offers of support. Please get in touch with them directly if you have any ideas.

Bowie 70s
Bowie in the 70s

Cameron Crowe: Would you give us some examples of your self-improvement?

Bowie: When I started writing, I couldn’t put more than three or four words together. Now I think I write very well. I’m finding that if I just look at something and think, A man did that, I realize I can do it, too. And probably better. I didn’t know anything about films, either. I mean, nothing at all. So I went out, got hold of a lot of the greatest films and worked it all out for myself. Very logically done. Now I have an excellent knowledge of the art. I became a bloody good actor, I’ll tell you. And I’ll be a superb film maker as well. It’s only a matter of deciding what you want to do.

Interview, September 1976

2. BIS and DCLG Opportunities

DCLG Talks

  • The changing size and role of the state

Matthew Whittaker, Chief Economist at the Resolution Foundation on Tuesday 16 February, 12:30-13:30. Book your place – http://dclg-seminar-16feb-matthew-whittaker.eventbrite.co.uk

  • Mortgages, housing and demographic changes

David Miles, Professor of Financial Economics at Imperial College London on Wednesday 24 February, 12:30-13:30.  Book your place – http://dclg-seminar-24feb-david-miles.eventbrite.co.uk

  • From market fixing to market making: Implications for smart and inclusive growth

Marina Mazzucato, Professor in the Economics of Innovation, University of Sussex on Wednesday 16 March, 12:30-13:30. Book your place – http://dclg-seminar-16march-maria-mazzucato.eventbrite.co.uk

Changes to Civil Service Learning – A Message from Hilary Spencer, Director of CSL

16 December 2015

We all need access to high quality and effective learning to help us to deliver great public services. This week we announced new contracts that will transform the learning on offer for the whole Civil Service.

I’m pleased to tell you that, as a result, you’ll soon see major improvements to the learning on offer for you and your teams. We have appointed a consortium led by KPMG – partnering with the Open University, Mind Gym and a range of other renowned suppliers – to create a new high quality programme of learning with us. At the same time, Korn Ferry Hay Group have been appointed to deliver learning for the SCS and talent schemes, with both contracts starting from March 2016.

I will let you know in March when we launch the new learning formally. In the meantime, here’s what you need to know about booking learning with CSL before March:

  • All our courses will be available until the end of March – but book early to ensure you can do the learning you want
  • A smaller sub-set of courses will be available March to May, and you’ll find a list of them on our website from next week
  • We’ll also be adding brand new courses to our website from March.

Alongside the new learning, we’re also building a new digital service, making it simpler, easier and quicker for you to find and book the learning you need.

We would really welcome your input and ideas, so please let us know if you’d like to help pilot our new learning, try out the new digital service or just give us some feedback.

Hilary Spencer (Director, Civil Service Learning)

Achieving Your Potential – An Online Tool

An online CSL resource that sets out what support is available to you as you develop and progress in the Civil Service. It includes plenty of links to a variety of places where you can find further information, tools, tips and resources. Click here to check it out.

Why not try a different approach to learning in the New Year. A webinar is a live presentation which takes place on the internet. Participants view slides on their computer screen and can interact with the presenter by typing questions or comments.

Bowie 80s
You guessed it – the 80s

“And I don’t care what anybody says; I like doing it, and it’s what I shall continue to do.”

From an interview with Dick Cavett in New York on 2 November 1974, speaking about his interest in enacting his material via a persona (e.g. Ziggy Stardust) rather than performing it as himself.

BIS Webinars

BIS continue to promote a more multi-media approach to L & D, and so are putting on a new series of webinars on various topics on offer from Shorebird. All are free and there are two more to go in the current series.  For full details or to register for an event, please click on the title.

As the events are getting much busier and are limited to 100 seats, we would advise that you log in early to avoid disappointment and guarantee your place on the live event.

Bowie 90s

Into the 90s

“I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.”

50th birthday concert at Madison Square Garden, 9 Jan 1997

3. Across the Country…And Beyond

The Theory of Economic Growth, 26-27 April 2016

Central London, £640 + VAT

Taught by Prof. Jean Imbs, the purpose of this course is to present an overview of the theory of economic growth, at Masters level.

The main theories are introduced in as intuitive a way as possible, to pinpoint as rigorously as possible which ones withstand empirical scrutiny and why. This is not a theoretical course, but techniques are discussed that help think about the economic growth question in a unified manner, and that motivate the empirical questions in the field.

Throughout the class, special attention is being paid to data, and to what empirical research has taught us about the effective determinants of economic growth. The proposed structure leaves plenty of room for group discussions, particularly as regards more recent developments on both empirical and theoretical fronts. This course continues to attract ‘rave’ reviews from GES members.

For more information click here.  To book, please email: contact@emllearning.co.uk

Thought Experiment at HMT

Thought Experiment brings world-leading speakers on a wide range of policy areas to Whitehall to share their insights and advice.  All talks are held in HMT, details below.  See “News and Reviews” for reflections on Ed Glaeser’s talk on “The Triumph of the City”.

The last two of this series – on housing and innovation & growth – look particularly relevant to our agenda.

The Speakers

Ed Glaeser is the world’s leading expert on cities, and a Professor of Economics at Harvard University. His book The Triumph of the City has been critically acclaimed as an exploration of what he calls ‘humanity’s greatest invention’.

Martin Jacques is a journalist and academic, and the author of the global best-seller When China Rules the World, which has received worldwide praise and attention for its analysis of China’s rise.

Ngaire Woods is Professor of Global Governance and inaugural dean of the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford. She founded and is the Director of the Global Economic Governance Programme.

Ian Bremmer is a political scientist and a leading thinker in the field of political risk. He is a founder of the US consulting firm Eurasia Group, and has published nine books, including several US bestsellers – most recently Superpower: Three Choices for America’s Role in the World.

Steven Pinker is an experimental psychologist and one of the world’s foremost writers on language, mind, and human nature. He is a Professor at Harvard University and has written several prizewinning bestsellers, including The Language Instinct and How the Mind Works.

Olivier Blanchard is a Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and was formerly Chief Economist at the International Monetary Fund.

Sir Christopher Pissarides is a Professor at the London School of Economics, and a winner of the 2010 Nobel Prize in Economics for his work on the analysis of markets with search frictions.

Danny Dorling is a Professor of Geography at the University of Oxford, and a leading thinker on housing and economic geography. He has published several books, and founded the website worldmapper.org.

Mariana Mazzucato is the author of ‘The Entrepreneurial State’, a widely acclaimed study of the state’s role in innovation, and is a Professor of Economics at Sussex University.

The Schedule

Speaker Date Time Title
Ed Glaeser 25/01/2016 13:00 Triumph of the city
Martin Jacques 05/02/2016 15:30 The Future of China
Ngaire Woods 10/02/2016 14:00 Globalisation
Ian Bremmer 16/02/2016 16:00 The Future of the United States
Steven Pinker 29/02/2016 14:00 Language
Olivier Blanchard 01/03/2016 11:00 The global economy
Chris Pissarides 10/03/2016 16:00 China’s expansion
Danny Dorling 15/03/2016 16:00 Housing, Health and Happiness
Mariana Mazzucato 21/03/2016 16:00 Innovation and Growth

Events at LSE

Green Bonds: a solution to finance the future?
Date: Monday 01 February 2016 6.30pm
Location: Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building
Speaker: Evelyn Hartwick, Sean Kidney

LITERARY FESTIVAL The Future City: cruel or consoling Utopia?
Date: Saturday 27 February 2016 5.00pm
Location: Wolfson Theatre, New Academic Building
Speaker: Darran Anderson, Dr Matthew Beaumont, Professor Rachel Cooper

Bowie 2000s


“As you get older the questions come down to two or three. How long have I got and what am I gonna do with the time I’ve got left?”

Interview for the New York Times, 9 June 2002

4. News and Reviews

The Second Cities and Local Growth Team Policy School (Milton Keynes)

Ben Whitlock writes…

The second Cities and Local Growth Policy School took place on 11 and 14 January. Following the partnership model used last year with Sheffield, this time we joined forces with Milton Keynes Council and South East Midlands LEP to explore the local growth issues and opportunities facing the area. The event culminated in teams making a series of policy pitches to a quite formidable panel in Milton Keynes.

Congratulations to everyone who took part, in particular Team BOWIE, for their winning idea to make Milton Keynes the low emission vehicle capital of the country, and the overall winners, Team Milton Keen.

There are already plans developing for the next Policy School, so people unable to attend this time will get another chance. The winning team members (Zainab Agha, Mick Allen, Neil Gordon, Alex Greaves, Helen Rusholme, Kate Thompson and Jake Werth) had the following reflections…

“Who knew it was possible to understand local government finance in one presentation? Or understand the complexities of the housing challenge in 30 minutes? The first day of the policy school had excellent speakers on everything to do with local growth.

The challenge was to present three policy recommendations to Milton Keynes or SEMLEP at the conclusion of the second day.  Team Milton Keen decided to keep it simple, which sadly meant shelving our excellent idea of making MK into a city for old people, a Florida of the UK if you well.

We had also absorbed Tom’s advice that policy making most of the time is not about developing grand visions but delivering them. So we made sure we put in practical ideas under each of our recommendations.

Inspired by the very (very) straight walk between the station and Council offices, the grey only interrupted by the black shadows of several underpasses, our first recommendation was to Energise the City Centre.  Alex and Kate had a few low cost ideas on how to make this happen but the one that caught the panel’s attention was the idea of a set of way-finding paths, emanating from a central sculpture in the plaza outside the station, each brightly coloured and snaking along the pavement and through underpasses freshly painted by the community to one of Milton Keynes’ many exciting attractions.

Zainab and Neil focussed on what businesses in MK worry about: not having enough skilled graduates. They proposed using existing policy levers to reduce the gap between skills employers want and the skills local workers have – including using behavioural insights to land career advice more effectively in schools.

Helen and Mick presented our ideas on improving connectivity across MK and the wider SEMLEP area, which focused on the additional capacity that would be created on the West Coast mainline by HS2 to improve the commuter journey in to and out of London and the creation of an East to West rail link.

At a local level we proposed a focus on cycling in and around MK to make better use of the currently under-used cycle networks. This would both reduce congestion in the city centre and also alleviate the impending parking shortage which is resulting from MK’s having been designed as a ‘city for cars’.

Thanks to everyone who organised policy school. Our favourite part, of course, was winning.”

Policy School

The Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, Sheffield (Katherine O’Connor)

On Tuesday 8 December 2015, Mick Allen, Ryan Kaye and Katherine O’Connor from the North West/Yorkshire Humber and North East teams visited the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) based between Sheffield and Rotherham on the old Sheffield airport site.  The visit was part of a wider visit arranged by the BIS Outreach team.

The University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre with Boeing (AMRC) is a world-class centre for research into advanced manufacturing technologies used in the aerospace, automotive, medical and other high-value manufacturing sectors.   The AMRC helps manufacturing businesses become more competitive through the application of new techniques, technologies and processes and are currently working in collaboration with the Lancashire LEP and BAE Systems on a new initiative.

On site there are various facilities dedicated to various specialisms, such as castings, composites, design prototypes, structural testing and Factory 2050. The same site is also home to the separate Nuclear AMRC, where we had a fascinating demonstration of efficient manufacturing using virtual reality. Ryan showed us that he was adept at removing parts of the Rolls Royce engine of a 787 Boeing Dreamliner with one hand!

Both AMRC and Nuclear AMRC are members of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, a consortium of seven leading manufacturing and process research centres, backed by the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK.

Apprentices also showed us round the new AMRC Training Centre, an important provider of apprenticeships for many local businesses.  The building opened in 2013 and trains 250 apprentices a year.

Graphene – Innovation Directorate Visit to Oxford University (Martin Wood)

In mid-November Diane Roberts and Martin Wood (from the NW team) joined Innovation Directorate colleagues in going to see what connects Manchester, Oxford, Williams Formula One, Jaguar and James Bond. The answer is, of course, graphene.

Manchester already has the two leading graphene Nobel prize-winning scientists, the recently opened National Graphene Institute (NGI), the forthcoming Graphene Engineering & Innovation Centre (GEIC), and the prestigious Sir Henry Royce Centre. Innovation and commercial graphene opportunities are real and already happening in the world of commerce.

Graphene was the world’s first 2-D material to be isolated. It is a single honeycomb layer of carbon atoms, which is 200 times stronger than steel, harder than diamond, almost transparent, and an efficient conductor of heat and electricity. It was first isolated in 2004 and the two leading scientists Prof Andre Geim and Prof Kostya Novoselov received the Nobel Prize in 2010.

Graphene comes in a variety of nano-forms, all with incredible names, including:

Graphene Nanomaterials

It is the minute scale that is so incredible – a single layer is one million times thinner than a human hair.

Increasingly it is being realised that the true potential lies not only in graphene itself, but also the combinations that it can be formed into with other elements and compounds to make new advanced nanomaterials & composites, each with unique properties and applications.

Professor Nicole Grobert outlined the research activity Oxford University is doing into carbon nanomaterials. It was great to see such innovation in the lab, and the willingness to give freedom to ‘play’ and allow creativity to follow an idea through. Ironically creating nanotubes requires furnaces as small as microwaves and test tubes almost as big as an adult!

It was striking how international the research team was, and how rapid their turnover of researchers. Clearly the first is a real strength, but staff turnover is a major problem for the team.

Chim Chu, the University of Oxford’s technology transfer manager from ISIS Innovation, co-ordinated a number of sessions on how companies are using graphene based nanomaterials in real life objects. In Manchester we already have the graphene lightbulb, but here we heard about:

  • Zapgochargers who are developing new (non-chemical) batteries for mobile phones that can be charged in 5 minutes. Also working on quick charging for DIY power tools, hoovers and cars.
  • Magneti Marelli which is developing graphene based thermal management systems for motorsport components.

The main lesson was that there still needs to be a translator between academia and industry to allow spin outs, wider innovation and commercialisation. Here this function was provided by ISIS, but from a national perspective, this lesson reinforces why Catapults (inc National Composites Centre) are so important and why there are high hopes for the NGI and GEIC.

Williams Formula One – Williams Advanced Engineering

Oxford University and Williams Formula One have a close working relationship. Williams use the University to help come up with innovative solutions to issues that come up on the racetrack and need rapid solutions, as well as developing new approaches that will give teams the edge in racing seasons to come. The example we saw was how graphene was being used for thermal management, improving the cooling and enhancing the performance of the car.

The experience of Williams to innovate on the racetrack has now been deployed in to a separate division – Williams Advanced Engineering (WAE). Profits from this are reinvested back in the F1 team.

In the foyer, we were privileged to see the Jaguar CX-75 hybrid electric/petrol car (see below for Bond and Spectre reference). Only 5 were ever built and each sold for £900,000.

WAE also is involved in:

  • Providing the car battery packs for the Formula-E world championships.
  • Prototyping the Pedelec bicycle for Brompton (next year on sale).
  • Nissan Patrol
  • The UK Ajax Scout communications & power systems – this is basically a tank for the army.
  • Baby transporter for ambulances.
  • Refrigeration aerofoils for Sainsbury’s

From a local growth perspective, Williams are innovation leaders, and they are reassuringly engaging with the Local Enterprise Partnership.

Lessons Learned

  • Chance to see activity in another patch with new stakeholders.
  • Whilst research is important in its own right, innovation and commercialisation are key to growth.
  • BIS products (HE, Research, Innovation) do make a difference and are valued by academia and industry alike.
  • Academics and business still need help to understand each other if commercial innovation is to occur.
  • We have not heard the last of graphene.


The day was rounded off by seeing a number of the Jaguars used in the latest James Bond film Spectre. Apparently for some shots the stunt driver drives the car from a cage strapped to the roof.


Professor Ed Glaeser on “The Triumph of the City” (Douglas Leckie)

CLoG alumnus Damian Conyngham-Hynes and HMT colleague Matt Hornsby have put together another season of outstanding “Thought Experiment” lectures hosted by HMT.  The first of 2016 was given by Ed Glaeser, Professor of Economics at Harvard and a world-leading expert on cities.

Ed Glaeser is a compelling lecturer.  If you would like to get a flavour of his style and get some more detail on his arguments than I can provide here, try this video as a starting point:

As for the lecture this week, it was full of insights pertinent to our work on local economic growth.  Here are some of the ones which struck me:

  • There is only so much government can do to encourage local economic growth: in the US the average temperature in January remains the best predictor of growth for the country’s cities.  People – particularly talented, mobile people – go and live where they want to live.
  • Levels of education are a key factor in urban economic resilience: why did Seattle and Boston thrive in the 80s and 90s where Detroit and Michigan declined?  The root cause is the level of education of their residents.
  • But it’s RELEVANT education that really counts: cities thrive when their residents have the skills that drive economic growth, not just skills in general.  New Yorkers steeped in the garment industry (small businesses, innovative, low barrier to entry) proved much better able to adapt to the opportunities of the late 20th and early 21st centuries than the steel workers of Pittsburg (huge companies, set manufacturing process, high barriers to entry).
  • Big infrastructure projects are no guarantee of economic growth: governments should be rigorous about thorough cost benefit analysis and act accordingly, rather than funding sexy infrastructure projects in declining areas for political reasons.
  • A clearly defined and limited role is the key to the success of devolution: the more specific and detailed the brief given to devolved governments (mainly Mayors in the US experience), the better they tend to perform.
  • Local government is best funded by local land taxes: studies show this to be the most effective and appropriate source of revenue for local governments.  Income taxation tends not to work well at the local level.

And just to add a quick plug for the new L & D Google Community.  I’ll post these points on that forum and it would be great to get a discussion going about them to see what others think about what Professor Glaeser was saying.  Click here to check it out.


Bowie 2016
Bowie in the 2010s

“Don’t you love the Oxford Dictionary? When I first read it, I thought it was a really really long poem about everything.”

Twitter, 21 November 2012

What influences firms’ location decisions?




Existing evidence on firms’ location decisions gives us some insight into factors that are important to firms when choosing where to locate (or re-locate) business activity. We know firms like access to markets, their suppliers and customers. We also know they like access to skilled labour and transport links with other cities and internationally. ONS data shows that these decisions vary by sectors. Firms that belong to heavy industry, in mining and quarrying for example, are few, large and tend to locate next to each other. In contrast retail firms, tend to locate close to the population they serve.

The purpose of the first Evidence Exchange session was to deepen our understanding of what drives firms’ location decisions using findings from Paul Hildreth’s research with firms in the Mersey Dee Alliance area. Paul’s work with firms is part of his PhD research on “Understanding the Contribution of Governance Institutions towards Shaping Economic Geography of Place: a Local and National Perspective”. Paul has previously worked as an independent advisor on cities, regional and local economies. He is currently Visiting Policy Fellow at SURF at Salford University.

Click here to see Paul Hildreth’s presentation on firm location decisions


Nick Laurence, Deputy Director, Cities and Local Growth unit introduced the session stressing the relevance of Paul’s research to local growth policy such as when thinking about the type and size of incentives to offer to firms locating on Enterprise Zones. Paul began the session by explaining why he selected Mersey Dee Alliance area as the focus of his research. The area is a unique cross border functional economy and is close to but not itself a mass location area (slides 4-5). He went on to give more details about the location of the firms he interviewed and the sectors in which they are located (slides 6-9).

Firm interviews

Pauls’ interviews with firms (summarised in slide 11) show that the area is attractive to firm as it has good infrastructure, good market access and crucially an established supply of workers. During the period of intensive inward investment (1980s to 19990s) effective local (public sector) support and regional preferential assistance were especially important.

  • On wages firms thought NE Wales was not a high wage cost area, but multi-national companies in the area tend to pay above median or even upper quartile wage rates. Firms thought there was access to general workforce, but higher skilled roles had to be filled from outside the area. As staff turnover generally is very low, the workforce was ageing which will create challenges for the future.
  • Transport: Connectivity was crucial for firms in sectors where customer service response was important or where the cost of shipping bulky products to the UK was so high it offset higher labour costs. Firms felt that there was good local and regional transport connectivity for Deeside/Wrexham, whereas Denbighshire is more remote.
  • Cost of premises: Firms that Paul interviewed felt that the cost of premises was not an important factor driving firms’ location decisions in the area as supply of office space was not limited, like it is in London and the South East.
  • Energy and environment: Issues around energy and environment were frequently raised in interviews. Firms dependent on high energy consumption frequently mentioned higher energy costs compared with Western Europe and uncertainty of UK policy.

Location decisions by type of firm

Paul’s research shows that different factors are important to firms in the area depending on type of firm and the sector within which it operates. For multi-national corporations engineering heritage, access to local skills, low turnover were important benefits of locating in the area. For these firms,area-specific challenges included access to higher level skills, an ageing workforce and significant transport costs. Future challenges included maturing product, ageing capital equipment, weak regional markets, plants operating at under-capacity and the need for new capital investment.

The overall position of UK firms was more secure. Their main challenges included: product development, innovation, and capital investment. Most firms tended to invest through their own saved resources. No firm interviewed had borrowed since 2007.,

How does his research relate to existing literature on firms’ location decisions

Paul went on to show how his research provides examples of existing literature on firms’ location decisions (slide 19):

  • “Related variety”: Literature showing that firms diversify in sectors related to existing firms in the area. Paul finds evidence of this in engineering firms, cheese manufacture located in the area.
  • “Externalities vary in relation to life cycle stage of industry and/or sources of knowledge and resilience in locality: Paul finds this is relevant to the area- there are some multi-national corporations in the area(Flintshire/Wrexham) which are at a mature stage while others are intermediate (through new product innovation) Each of these has different location needs
  • “Developing embedded assets”: There are examples of firms in the area utilising physical and knowledge local assets (such as a North Cheshire firm developing leading edge technology using plant left by an earlier firm) or retaining labour market skills through economic cycle (such as firms moving to Deeside and Wrexham recognising embedded labour market skills as an asset).
  • Close identification with locality: Paul found evidence of this in several firm in the locality including bread products manufacturer, Wrexham. Cheese manufacturer, Denbighshire, Chester Zoo

Enterprise Zones

Paul’s research shows that firms in the area do not consider the EZ to be important to their location decisions. Any productivity advantages that arise from firms locating in the Zone are likely to be visible within the firm. Interestingly his research shows that the cost of moving vary by firm but are likely to be significant as firms are embedded into the place within which they operate. Higher relocation costs mean firms will only move when they see significant productivity advantages.

Other issues

Paul had several other comments on the role of institutions in the area. He will pick these up in more detail as his research progresses.

Governance: Nearly all firms he interviewed stressed the value of a single point of government contact. This they felt was more important than generic business support services offered by the public sector. From the firms he interviewed, Welsh Anchor and Regional Important companies were more likely to stress positive benefits of devolution than those without status.

Collaboration: There was stronger evidence of vertical rather than horizontal collaboration between firms in NE Wales.

Access to capital: None of the interviewed firms had borrowed capital in recent years or were seeking to do. Investment funding came from company reserves (indigenous firms) or parent company (MNC).

Appropriate role of institutions: Paul posed the question whether the role and maturity of institutions was at risk of being overlooked in the current focus on place.

After a short question and answer discussion Nick thanked Paul for a fascinating presentation.

If you have a burning policy question in your area or a speaker for the next Evidence Exchange session please get in touch with Zainab K Agha or Heidi Granger.