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Inspiring innovation on an international stage

Inspiring innovation on an international stage

Leeds and the City Region takes its place on the international stage this January, with visitors from across the world seeing first-hand how Leeds inspires innovation.

The visit is part of a prestigious programme, offered by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Sloan Global Programs, which shares experiences of building innovation driven ecosystems in more than 50 regions around the world. 

Developing its own ambitious plans for the city and region, Leeds is hosting the MIT Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program (MIT REAP) international workshop, taking the opportunity to showcase its strengths to global leaders.

We’re very proud that MIT has identified Leeds and the City Region as having the right ingredients to create a truly remarkable environment.

Professor Lisa Roberts

“We’re very proud that MIT has identified Leeds and the City Region as having the right ingredients to create a truly remarkable environment to support enterprise and inclusive growth,” said Professor Lisa Roberts, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation, from the University of Leeds, who leads MIT REAP Leeds Team.

Read our feature: Why a vibrant innovative ecosystem needs a research-intensive university to enable a region to innovate and grow.

Championing innovation 

Professor Roberts continued: “To kick-start the week, we’re giving our international visitors a glimpse of how we’re creating an innovation-driven entrepreneurial ecosystem, building on our history as a region that has always championed innovation, alongside new ways of inspiring, incentivising and empowering entrepreneurs and start-ups. 

We want to be known as a place where entrepreneurs can start and grow their businesses.

Professor Lisa Roberts

“We want to be known as a place where entrepreneurs can start and grow their businesses, where entrepreneurs, government, industry, finance and academia come together as a collective force, and where people can access the right networks and funding to take their ideas to the next level.”

Innovation Exchange and tours

The University’s innovation hub, Nexus, is hosting an Innovation Exchange event as part of the Leeds showcase, with an exhibition of organisations and networks that support access to talent, technology and investors.

Nexus building reception


International delegates will also be guided on special ‘innovation ecosystem’ tours, designed to reveal how Leeds currently inspires innovation, offering international delegates a chance to meet Leeds’ budding and established entrepreneurs.


The tours focus on:

• Creative cultures, fashion and arts - how Leeds has nurtured a range of creative entrepreneurs and social enterprises. The delegates will visit the iconic AW Hainsworth woollen mill and Patrick Studios, a bespoke venue for artists. They will also learn about Leeds’ Inclusive Growth Strategy and the big idea of maximising the economic benefits of culture, as well as East Street Arts and the Future Fashion Factory programme.  

• Financial technology – and why the Leeds City Region is recognised as one of the main Fintech hubs in the UK. Visiting CPP Group, Avenue HQ and Santander’s Work Café, the visitors will hear more about the start-up and scale-up experiences of entrepreneurs.

• Future mobility – and how Leeds is supporting innovations in transport through immersive technology, modelling and simulators. The delegates will visit the University, Nexus and Arup, as well as hear from the Government’s Connected Places Catapult and the emerging technologies supporting the different ways we live and travel in towns, cities and rural areas.

• Healthcare technologies – and the support which has inspired a diverse range of medical technology and digital health entrepreneurs in Leeds for many years. The delegates will visit Co>Space North and the NHS Horizon Conference Centre to understand more about the region’s successful spin-outs, networks and partnerships.


Following this day of introductions, the MIT Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program (MIT REAP) workshop runs from Tuesday 28 January to Thursday 30 January. 

Team Leeds

The Leeds Team in the programme includes leaders from the University of Leeds, Nexus, the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and West Yorkshire Combined Authority, Leeds City Council, KPMG, Arup, Leeds Academic Health Partnership, Monroe K and entrepreneurs Professor Adam Beaumont and Ben Ziff, with the various organisations and individuals hosting the ‘innovation ecosystem’ tours.

Photo of Team Leeds. From left to right, standing on a staircase is, 
Martin Stow, Director, Nexus, and 
Jo-Anne Wass, Director, Leeds Academic Health Partnership, and
Thomas Bridges, Director, Arup, and 
Roger Marsh, Chair, Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, and
Justine Andrew, Market Director, KPMG's Education and Skills, and
David Aspin, Founder, Monroe K, and 
Lisa Roberts, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation, University of Leeds, and
Tom Riordan, Chief Executive, Leeds City Council

Team Leeds, from left to right: Martin Stow (Director, Nexus), Jo-Anne Wass (Chief Operating Officer, Leeds Academic Health Partnership), Thomas Bridges (Director, Arup), Roger Marsh (Chair, Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership), Justine Andrew (Market Director, KPMG's Education and Skills), David Aspin (Founder, Monroe K), Prof Lisa Roberts (Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation, University of Leeds), Tom Riordan (Chief Executive, Leeds City Council). Also in Team Leeds not featured: Ben Ziff (Managing Director, Citipark at Town Center Securities) and Prof Adam Beaumont (Founder & CEO, aql and Northinvest)

Driving ambitions 

Dr Martin Stow, Nexus Director, said: “We’re delighted to welcome our global counterparts to Nexus as part of this milestone event for Leeds. I have been truly inspired by the work of MIT, who are the world leader for industry and academia collaboration to innovate and accelerate business growth. This is the culture we are driving at Nexus and we’re looking forward to sharing some of our early successes and innovations with our international guests.”

We have been truly inspired by the work of MIT, who are the world leader for industry and academia collaboration to innovate and accelerate business growth.

Dr Martin Stow

Professor Lisa Roberts added: “This is undoubtedly a significant moment for Leeds and the City Region. We’re developing exciting plans for the year ahead and we’ll soon be announcing our new strategy to help drive our ambitions. Harnessing our regional strengths is more important than ever in supporting the North and the Government’s drive for national growth, productivity and increased competitiveness.”

Welcoming MIT to Leeds

Travis Hunter, Director of MIT REAP, said: “We are thrilled to bring this MIT REAP workshop here. At this workshop, MIT REAP faculty will be guiding the participating teams through the process of formulating a strategic approach and subsequent action plan to support innovation-driven entrepreneurship (IDE) in their regions.

Team Leeds is showing great potential and a great example in reinvigorating the region's long history.

Travis Hunter, Director , MIT REAP

“The team’s plans are designed with the intentional aim of having a long-lasting and sustainable impact in their respective and distinct IDE ecosystems. In this regard, Team Leeds is showing great potential and a great example in reinvigorating the region’s long history as a core part of the northern powerhouse in today’s digital age.”

Find out more information about Leeds’ place in MIT REAP, and its successful bid to host the MIT REAP workshop.

More information

Contact University of Leeds press office on pressoffice@leeds.ac.uk

Background to MIT REAP

The two-year MIT Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Programme (REAP) provides expert, evidence-based guidance for teams to bring about significant economic and social change in their region.

MIT selects regional teams each year from around the world, involving leaders from government, business and industry, academia, finance and representatives from the entrepreneurial community.

Since the programme started in 2012, the more than 50 nations and cities that have been helped by the programme to shape their economic and societal fortunes include Beijing, Scotland, London, Tokyo and Qatar.

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