Regeneris and the HEFCE Local Growth Academy

Regeneris has been working with HEFCE on new national initiative – the Local Growth Academy. Tim Fanning explains what this is all about, and the CPD accredited sessions Regeneris has been delivering since then. 

What is the Local Growth Academy?

The Local Growth Academy is a new programme set up by HEFCE aimed at universities, FE colleges and other anchor institutions including the NHS and local government. It grew from a recognition that these organisations need to work more closely together if they are to realise their potential to support local economic growth.  

The programme aims to boost the capacity of organisations to attract new forms of finance, share best practice and deliver innovative solutions to local growth across the country. It is targeted at senior leaders involved in strategy, finance, business engagement, estates management and infrastructure development. Regeneris was brought in to design and deliver sessions on making a business case and evaluating impacts, these sessions have so far attracted over 140 institutions around England.  

Developing an effective business case

Module one focussed on the key principles behind a good business case using HM Treasury Green Book principles.  Drawing on five key principles, it picks out the main components of a successful funding bid and the major pitfalls to avoid.  

In stepping back from the coalface to develop the course material, we were reminded just how important it is to get the strategic and economic cases for a project or programme right from an early stage. This requires a series of important questions to be answered:  What are the key objectives of the investment and how will we know if we have been successful? What benefits will the project deliver, not only for the institution but for the wider economy? What are the market failures the project is tackling? How can we show that our proposals are the best way forward? Have we built in effective risk management from the start? 

We pick up on some of these points in our reflections around the industrial strategy here.

The importance of evaluation

Module two focussed on monitoring and evaluation to help attendees understand how they can assess the performance of their project and demonstrate their impact on local growth prioritiesWe concentrated on the growing importance of counterfactual impact assessmentdrawing on our work for DCLG developing Summative Assessment guidance which all ERDF projects will need to act uponWe really focussed on helping participants identify how they might practically apply these requirements to the projects they are deliveringOur sessions emphasised the importance of getting the project logic chain right, engaging with evaluators early and ensuring that stakeholders and project deliverers understand the value and purpose of evaluation.   

What’s next?

Since delivering the HEFCE sessions we have developed the content into a CPD accredited training course for universitiesThe session lasts for two full days and covers both business case development and evaluation. It is suitable for anyone developing projects with a local growth angle, especially where public funding is involved.  

We have already delivered our new course for the University of Oxford and are looking forward to rolling it our more widely in 2018. If you are interested in hearing more, please contact Tim Fanning. We have also been advising universities on their summative assessment plans. To hear more about this, please contact Kate Downes.

Other sessions in the Local Growth Academy looked at the implications of the industrial strategy and the decentralisation of local government finance. In response to the strong interest in this agenda, HEFCE will be running a national Local Growth Academy conference to help organisations prepare Local Industrial Strategies and develop proposals for the Strengthening Places and Shared Prosperity Fund.

The conference will be on Wednesday 28th March 2018, 10.00 – 16.30 at Woburn House, Tavistock Square, Bloomsbury, London, WC1H 9HQ.  Regeneris will be there but if you would like to hear more about our work before then, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Bookings open on 15th December on Eventbrite.

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