The English Experiment: Local Enterprise Partnerships and their effects on innovation policy design and implementation

  • Martin Wain

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis examines the significant changes to sub-national economic governance in England introduced by Local Enterprise Partnerships, exploring factors influencing the design and operation of these Partnerships. In 2010, the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition government announced the abolition of the nine Regional Development Agencies, which were specialist, non-departmental bodies put in place by a previous Labour government in 1998 to resemble European-style regions. In 2012, the Regional Development Agencies were replaced by 39 (subsequently reduced to 38) Local Enterprise Partnerships, which are voluntary, business- led boards based around self-defined functional economic geographies. The Local Enterprise Partnerships inherited responsibility for economic development policy (including innovation) from the Regional Development Agencies. The transition from Regional Development Agencies to Local Enterprise Partnerships created a moment of flux in the English policy landscape, and as such provides a “living lab” for policy and governance. Focusing on three city regions in the north of England, this research uses a case study approach to (i) understand how local actors responded to the Local Enterprise Partnership concept, and explain what determined these responses, and (ii) explore the effectiveness of the Local Enterprise Partnerships in terms of developing policy outcomes for their local areas, and explain any observed differences between them. The findings of this research contributes to the literature by further adding to the understanding of multi-level governance. Within the multi-level setting, the research finds that the Local Enterprise Partnerships operate as intermediaries, working between the national and local/regional levels of governance, but represent only a very partial dispersal of government responsibility. The findings of the research also contribute to the literature on leadership in governance and public policy by highlighting the conditions that are important to the effectiveness of the Local Enterprise Partnerships. These are: (i) Evident, clear thought leadership and strong, visible political leadership, (ii) Accepted structures that support and enable joint working and decision making, and (iii) Strong analytical and strategic capacity in the system. Where these conditions are not met, the effectiveness of the Local Enterprise Partnerships in developing policy outcomes for their local areas is diminished.
Date of Award31 Dec 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorJakob Edler (Supervisor) & Philip Shapira (Supervisor)


  • Innovation policy
  • Economic development
  • Local Enterprise Partnership
  • Governance
  • Multi-level governance
  • Regional policy
  • Sub-national policy

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