Manchester as a Knowledge City

Online Foresight Guide


Designing the exercise

Running the Exercise

Follow-up of the Exercise

Relevant Links



As one of Europe's foremost 'city-regions' and the economic motor of the Northwest of England Manchester has over the last fifteen years been undergoing a process of transformation and regeneration away from traditional industries and towards science-based and creative industries and services. This drive to establish itself as a Knowledge City has brought relations between universities and business to the centre of local and regional policy-making. The Knowledge Capital vision is based on the fact that the “(then) four world-class universities of Manchester and Salford – and the area's local authorities, health service, and rapidly expanding creative, professional and cultural industries – have come together for the first time to present a united force……(the) vision is wide-ranging, timely and irresistible: the creation of a dynamic urban environment…that links excellence in research and learning directly to local companies; …and that plays stronger part in local community life and area-based regeneration.” Within this ten-year vision, the 'super-campus' with a combined income of £670 million per year, is projected as being at the core of the Knowledge Capital, providing the critical mass to leverage the local skills base, meeting business and community knowledge needs. The Knowledge Capital initiative draws on growing recognition of Higher Education Institutions(HEI)'s potentially key role in bringing about the economic regeneration of the region and related government initiatives known as 'third leg mission', facilitating HEI's greater interaction and integration with wider economic stakeholders.

In 2003, additional developments lead to the idea of organising a foresight exercise to explore synergies that were currently evolving the development of regional and local policy between Manchester Science Park, the city and regional development agencies and the Universities. A key initiative underway related to the fact that the two most research-intensive universities in Manchester (Victoria University of Manchester and UMIST) were in the process of combining to form an institution with world-class aspirations for research excellence. A major national study of university-industry linkages, known as the Lambert Review, was also under way. The origin of the foresight exercise lay in a strategic review of Manchester Science Park (MSP) carried out in 2003 by PREST. Manchester Science Park is one of the United Kingdom's most successful examples of a science park meeting the full criteria of that definition. The Science Park hosts about 80 companies and is jointly owned by the City Council, the universities whose campuses it adjoins and five private sector companies. Though run as a company it reinvests all of its profits to enhance the economic and technological wealth of Manchester. For many years the Science Park had expended its limited resources on its more immediate role in estate management and was now seeking to extend the range of value-added services it could offer to its members and to play a more proactive role in regional development. As a result of the strategic review, the Science Park agreed to sponsor a scenario workshop in order to play a more proactive role both in the development of linkages with universities and in terms of local and regional policy-making.

Reasons for using Foresight

The reasons for using foresight are outlined in the Strategic Review of Manchester Science Park. One recommendation of the review was to apply foresight techniques to build a shared vision of the role of the Science Park and other organisations in developing such linkages. A second recommendation was for the Science Park to increase its engagement with the strategic discussions of its participating universities, particularly in the context of Project Unity. This led to the idea that the foresight activity could be extended to the broader topic of business-university linkages in Manchester and linked to the articulation of the Knowledge Capital concept.

Securing political support

With sponsorship from Manchester Science Park, the Regional Affairs Directorate of the University of Manchester and PREST, Institute of Innovation Research, University of Manchester, the concept of the Success Scenario Workshop was developed.

Positioning in the policy cycle

Business-university linkages have been the focus of a great deal of policy attention in recent years. During 2003 two major national policy reviews were addressing this topic:

The Knowledge Capital Initiative had been established conceptually but was looking for a practical agenda on which to proceed.

Designing the exercise

Setting the objectives

The two objectives of the exercise were:

  1. To develop a shared vision of the future of business–university linkages in the city-region of Manchester. The aim was to link the strategies of the universities in the area with the city's own self-vision of its future as a 'Knowledge Capital'.
  2. To move towards a shared vision among senior stakeholders such as local political leaders, heads of universities, heads of key intermediaries and industry associations, of what success in this area would look like in five years time and to begin the process of developing a road map to get there.

Determining the coverage (focus and scope)

Rather than exploring alternative scenarios for city-region development, the exercise focused on bringing leading stakeholders in the City-Region to discuss and elaborate a 'success scenario' for business-university linkages in the context of the City's broader vision of becoming a 'Knowledge Capital'. The scope of the exercise was specifically to explore the Contribution of Universities to the Knowledge Capital: A Scenario for Success in 2008. Preparatory work was used to brief participants on a model on university-industry interaction which set out four main dimensions:

Defining the Users

A list was compiled of key individuals who could be seen as shaping and driving the future of business-university links in Manchester. These came from business and commerce, national, regional and local government, intermediary organizations and the City's universities.

Approach to design decisions

The experience of previous PREST/CRIC success scenario workshops carried out for the Office of Science and Technology, for a research council and for two large firms, was used to guide the design process. However, this was the first time that the approach had been applied to a structural issue rather than a sectoral or technological area so some innovation was needed.

Setting the time horizon

In the specific case of the Manchester City exercise a five-year horizon was chosen, to get beyond short-term considerations but to allow immediate actions to follow. This period also marks the halfway point in the ten-year vision of the Knowledge Capital

Setting the timeframe

Given that results were needed quickly if they were to influence the knowledge capital agenda and the merged super-University's knowledge transfer agenda, it was decided by the Project team that a 24-hour exercise would be organised.

Costs and funding

Given that the exercise was deliberately organised to take place within a 24-hour timeframe, the costs could be kept to a minimum. A budget of 20,000 euros was made available by the sponsor, Manchester Science Park Ltd.

Skills and competencies

The exercise drew on the competence and expertise of the University of Manchester's PREST which was the organiser of the exercise.

Assessing previous and ongoing work

The exercise derived from and built on other strategy-development processes already underway, including the Knowledge Capital Vision, the Single University initiative and Manchester Science Park's Strategic Review. The exercise was designed to provide added drive and value to these initiatives by bringing the leading players together.

Project team and organisation of the exercise

The project team was lead by Prof Luke Georghiou, PREST and included Ms Jane Davies (MSP Ltd) and Jennifer Cassingena Harper (MCST).

Steering Committee

No formal steering committee was set up.

Communication strategy

Designing the methodology (methodological framework)

The Success Scenario Workshop used an approach developed by the Institute of Innovation Research at the University of Manchester and previously applied in developing UK national strategies for ICT, biotechnology and nanotechnology. It is an action based approach where the shared vision among senior stakeholders of what success in the area would look like, is specified in terms of goals and indicators which begin the process of developing a road-map to get there together with setting a “stretch target” for all the stakeholders. The discussion and debate involved develops mutual understanding and a common platform of knowledge that helps to align the actors for action.

After identifying the leading stakeholders, participants were sent an invitation to the workshop together with a briefing document setting out the objectives of the Workshop and several background documents:

Following a working dinner at which key concerns were aired and a briefing provided, on the following day an introductory plenary session set out some of the issues and recent research findings in the field of business-university links. The Workshop proceeded with three plenary and two parallel sessions (see Structure Diagram). The first set of parallel sessions aimed to identify the main driving forces for alternative futures (Drivers and Shapers), whilst the afternoon sessions focused on the defining the main elements of the success scenario.

A final plenary session helped to identify the key actions and indicators of success were identified. The results from the day's deliberations are presented in the report, "Contribution of the Universities to the Knowledge Capital, A Scenario for Success in 2008".

Lessons Learned

The main lesson to be drawn from the exercise is that the success scenario method succeeded in its aims by engaging the active participation and commitment of the key senior stakeholders. In exporting this experience to other contexts, in particular to another city, region or country, it is important to bear in mind that the successful application of the 24-hour success scenario workshop method depends on a number of assumptions:

These factors cannot be under-estimated and will have to be given serious thought if this approach is to be applied in a less-developed country, region or city context.

Running the Exercise


The Success Scenario workshop participants were:

Follow-up of the Exercise

Diffusion and dissemination

A article on the results published in " Technology Analysis & Strategic Management" provided a brief but clear synthesis of the main results (see extract below):

The Success Scenario sets the scene in 2008 in terms of breakthroughs in achieving the key elements of the vision, namely attractive infrastructure (including the insight that the Science Park should evolve from being a location to becoming a brand representing a particular quality of environment for knowledge-based firms), high quality human resources, alignment of university missions, high-growth creative inward investment and dynamic business-university networking. Details of these elements are presented in the table below. Workshop participants identified key actions for realizing the success scenario and a number of indicators to measure the extent of success.

Key Elements of the Success Scenario 2008  

The scenario formed a reference frame against which action points to realise this definition of success could be enumerated. Participants produced a list of ten key actions:

Ten key actions necessary to achieve the Success Scenario

The actions can be seen as falling into three main categories. The first group addressed the academic establishment and reflected a common desire from external partners to see university research activity concentrated in centres of excellence. This is a rational outcome as the profile that such centres achieve reduces the search costs for forms and public authorities seeking collaborative inputs. It also reflects a demand for resources to be focussed on a narrower range of high quality activities rather than risking mediocrity through excessive spreading of resources.

The second group of actions relate to networking. The recognition of the importance of this activity was translated into an agenda that cleared the way for new networks in emerging areas and better interfaces to support their development. This harmonised with the third category of actions which related to the development of a cadre of people equipped with the necessary skills and attitudes to implement the goals of the Knowledge Capital.

The final step in defining the success scenario involved the identification of success indicators that would allow its realisation to be monitored (as well as concretising further the actions. None are quantified in the absence of detailed baseline data but all are verifiable. The indicators are shown below:

20 Success Indicators to track future progress

Dynamic Infrastructure

Net importers of high quality brains

World Class Universities

Massive Inward Investment

Intelligent Networking

City-business links and networks are encouraging new forms of cooperative governance


No formal evaluation of the exercise has been carried out to date.

Diffusing Foresight Practice

The diffusion of foresight practice generated through the exercise is reflected by the fact that the larger region in which Manchester is situated stated its intention to launch its own technology foresight programme though this has yet to commence. Manchester Science Park is currently planning a new iteration of the exercise to update the strategy.


The exercise has been widely regarded as a success. It has been reported in national as well as regional journals and the main body responsible for the City's knowledge society strategy has adopted its recommendations as an agenda for action. Individual participating bodies have also taken up relevant points and there is already evidence of resulting actions. A key participant has since become Vice-President of the new University with responsibility for innovation and commercialisation and has drawn on the discourse of the exercise. The exercise has also been effective in highlighting to senior policy-makers and stakeholders the effectiveness of 'organised' networking within the context of a workshop, however short the exercise, as a stimulus for sharing, dovetailing and implementing individual visions. The contacts, ideas, networks, links, visions, scenarios and actions generated through the exercise cannot be fully tracked or exploited for reasons of timing and establishing attribution. However, a key impact has been the perception on the part of the workshop participants of the potential for capitalising on these outputs by:

Now fully underway, the Knowledge Capital secretariat recently used the success indicators generated by the exercise as an input to the design of its own framework, currently the subject of a new PREST study. National policy has also moved in this direction with the development of a “ Science City” concept becoming a key element of regional policy in the UK. Indirectly, the study helped in the articulation of this policy.


The success of 24-hour success scenario workshop method depends on thorough preparation for the event in terms of :

Lessons learned

The quality and impact of the lessons generated from such a short and quick exercise ultimately depends on the adaptability of the exercise/workshop design to the particular context, the extent of preparation (in terms of the documentation and facilitation) and the level of engagement of the participants (before, during and after the event). From the perspective of outcome many of the policy recommendations are in general transferable, though of course with context specific adaptation. The use of foresight to produce a unified regional vision is a helpful approach to developing university–industry links in a knowledge economy.

Relevant Links

Miles (2003) has described the success scenario in terms of two elements: