Helping businesses to become more competitive

Yorkshire Forward helps businesses in Yorkshire & Humber to be more successful by enabling them to become more competitive at local, national and international levels.

This page tells you about our Competitiveness policy. To find out about the support we deliver in this area, please refer to our pages on business improvement, innovation, collaboration with universities and industry, and best practice.

Why does ‘competitiveness’ matter?

Companies want to be more competitive because they need to win and deliver business in an increasingly challenging market environment. Most of the businesses in Yorkshire & Humber are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Because of increasingly exacting customers, and more intense foreign competition, they face the demand for ever-more innovative new products/services and increasing pressure on profit margins.

Yorkshire Forward is interested in competitiveness because the increased success of individual businesses collectively boosts the region’s £87bn economy. A stronger economy, in turn, attracts inward investment, generating a cycle of greater economic prosperity for all.

How can the region become more competitive?

In order to boost Yorkshire & Humber’s performance when compared with national and international measures of competitiveness, businesses should:

  • Increase their R&D spend (thereby triggering innovation) to a level which is commensurate with their peers in the UK and Europe
  • Participate in partnerships which lead to collaborative business improvement
  • Increase their levels of adoption of business best-practice (such as lean manufacturing).

How does Yorkshire Forward promote competitiveness?

Yorkshire Forward promotes competitiveness by helping the region’s businesses to become more productive, more innovative, and more adaptable to economic change. The effective use of technology, strong supply-chain linkages, efficient processes, and industrial and academic collaboration to business can all support competitiveness.

Part of our work is to bring academia and business together—to share knowledge, and to ensure that great ideas get off the ground and then succeed. Yorkshire & Humber’s universities are a huge asset to our region, with excellence in those key areas of applied research and science which are essential for growing the region’s economy.

There are two main strands to the way we approach competitiveness: by promoting business improvement and by encouraging innovation.

1: Business improvement

Business improvement activity focuses primarily on:
(a) Process Improvement—including the Manufacturing Advisory Service; supply-chain development programmes; increasing SME access to public-sector contracts; and access to opportunities around the Olympic Games 2012 (and other major events).

(b) Technological Improvement—partnering with public-sector agencies on ICT procurement to develop better broadband networks for all; increasing SMEs’ use of ICT; and access to technology resources (such as demonstrators & shared development facilities) for businesses in specific sectors.

2: Innovation

We work with SMEs to promote innovation, supporting the development of new and different products and processes by stimulating better links to partners in the private sector and by maximising the economic benefits of the region’s universities. Our activity in this area has four themes:
(a) Developing a culture of innovation—through a range of actions including seminars and awareness programmes and graduate placements
(b) Creating an innovation environment—where areas of academic and commercial excellence can be used as hubs of innovation activity
(c) Promoting EU and international engagement—engaging with the region’s universities in order to access links to overseas academic and research institutions
(d) Research and technological demonstration development—engaging with the UK research councils, the and UKTI in order to identify opportunities where the region’s knowledge-base can be exploited.

Who delivers our work around increasing competitiveness?

Our work in the area of business improvement is delivered via Business Link Yorkshire, with technology resources procured from specialist providers, such as universities. Our work around innovation is delivered by the region’s universities, research councils and Business Link Yorkshire, with input from a combination of local authority partners, higher/further education and other research organisations.