Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) is using our evaluation expertise to establish the effectiveness of its support for innovators, by demonstrating the impact and efficiency of its Liverpool City Region (LCR) Activate programme for digital and creative businesses in the region.

Innovation is a key driver of economic growth and creates high value jobs, yet developing and commercialising a product or service is a major challenge as it demands specific expertise, time and resources. There’s a wealth of academic expertise in digital and creative sectors that can help businesses to develop their ideas and bring them to market, but most entrepreneurs don’t know how to access this rich source of knowledge.

LJMU established the LCR Activate programme in 2017 as a support and funding accelerator for start-up digital enterprises in and around Liverpool, offering support from experts in the commercialisation of digital products. It has helped 130 start-ups to develop their projects so far.

The £5.8m programme is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), and has also received funding from LJMU and the LCR Local Enterprise Partnership.

LJMU appointed Capita to conduct an independent evaluation of LCR Activate’s performance. It wanted to demonstrate that the programme had made a measurable impact on its beneficiary businesses, by enabling them to create wealth and jobs and be first to market with commercially-demanded applications.

We carried out our evaluation according to the best practice prescribed in HM Treasury’s Green and Magenta Book, and in a way that fulfils the requirements of an ERDF summative assessment of a programme’s outcomes. We conducted:

  • contextual research and a desk review of strategies, policies and programme monitoring reports
  • an in-depth economic assessment
  • engagement with stakeholders and beneficiaries via professional interviews and primary surveys, followed by an in-depth analysis of the results
  • a value-for-money assessment benchmarked against other innovation programmes.

Our work was supplemented by our wealth of experience in monitoring and measuring impact in knowledge-rich sectors. The breadth and depth of our experience allowed us to benchmark LCR Activate’s performance and describe which of its unique features worked and lessons learned. We also surveyed the enterprises themselves, who provided their own insights into how well the programme works.

The final evaluation contains clear recommendations and guidance to the university on the impact of its role in the programme, with recommendations about how to proceed with a successor programme and improve the current programme’s performance.

With the help of our expert input, LJMU was able to deliver its summative assessment to a high standard, providing insight for the intended audience of regional innovation programmes and contributing to the national evidence of progress, impact and effectiveness of the ERDF’s operational programme across England.

Thanks to the successful reporting process, LJMU has a greater chance of receiving further funding to support the area’s start-up ecosystem, through LCR Activate or other programmes, and continuing to provide local entrepreneurs with much-needed support for their new ventures.

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