Monthly Archives: October 2015

Moving from the classroom to the briefing room

Where does the MPP lead? Well in some cases it leads straight to giving advice to government, even before you’ve left the course. One of our students from the 2014 – 2015 cohort, Tom Hitchings, completed his work placement within the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and was asked to present his work to staff from across the department at the end of his time here in Cambridge. Here’s Tom’s reflections on the process, along with a video of his briefing to the BIS team.

Does the UK need a ‘clusters’ policy?

Tom Hitchings, MPP 2014-15

One of the most satisfying aspects of the Cambridge MPP is the range of opportunities to tackle real-life problems and influence policy-makers. The work placement is a great example of this.

During the MPP I spent 14 weeks researching clusters for the UK government’s Cities and Local Growth Unit. If you’ve not heard the term before, Silicon Valley is probably the best example of a ‘cluster’, where people with particular skills and knowledge concentrate in a small area to network, exchange ideas and start new businesses.

Fast-forward to July and I submitted a 5,000 word policy briefing to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) on what I thought government should do to promote clusters. This research was based on over 30 interviews with people in industry, local government and academia, plus countless hours spent reading policy journals.

My conclusion was a little unusual: I argued the government shouldn’t have a ‘clusters’ policy.

Instead, I proposed government focus on removing the impediments that my fieldwork showed were constraining the growth of successful clusters. For example, some current challenges faced by clusters include poor housing supply, inadequate infrastructure and visa restrictions.

When BIS asked me to come in and give a presentation on my findings and recommendations to a wider group of staff, I jumped at the opportunity.

It gave me a great chance to present my research to a larger audience, receive feedback from a diverse group including policy-makers, academics and industry leaders, and talk with civil servants about possible reforms over the course of the new Parliament.

I was pleasantly surprised by the level of support in the room for the ‘hands-off’ approach I was recommending. You can judge for yourself below: