Frontier is in the middle of a four year project to evaluate the centres of excellence that promote innovation and growth in urban innovation, intelligent mobility, offshore renewables and cell and gene therapy.
The government has invested £750 million so far in the Catapult Centres – concentrating on high-profile, high-tech areas of the economy in which the UK is trying to make a name for itself.
The question is: what would have happened had the Catapults not been there? Without an obvious control group to help understanding the counterfactual, it is a complicated question.
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Frontier worked with an imaginative approach to evaluation using “contribution analysis”. Working with the Catapults, we set out the economic logic of what they could achieve. We’re now drawing on a range of sources of evidence and methods to provide a narrative for what is different. That way we can work out what the Catapults have contributed.
We teamed up with market research partners to survey business and academics, and together we are working on detailed case studies of specific examples of what Catapults have delivered. This is all cross-referenced with the Catapults’ internal management information, external data and econometric analysis of administrative data.
The projects are still on-going, and the final reports not due until 2020. But early findings show there have been some benefits from the Catapults Centres, which are broadly on track to deliver the activities and outputs planned. More usefully, the early study has also highlighted some ways in which the Catapults’ strategy could be improved, which is leading to different approaches and improvements in internal management processes.
In a vote of confidence, the UK government has recently announced significant additional investments in the Catapult network.