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MIT REAP launches new regional innovation and entrepreneurship acceleration program in Nova Scotia following successful UK pilot

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MIT REAP Focus offers regions across the globe a bespoke, local-focused model

Cambridge, Mass., February 4, 2021—Today the MIT Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program (MIT REAP) announced the launch of its new Focus program in Nova Scotia following a successful pilot program in the UK. MIT REAP is a powerful global initiative that engages with communities to supercharge innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystems and transform economies. The Focus program is the first new MIT REAP offering since its Global program launch in 2012, which has driven measurable impact in regions world-wide. Both the MIT REAP Global and Focus programs employ an evidence-based approach, translating MIT frameworks, research and insights into practical, actionable, and strategic interventions; convening and educating teams of key stakeholders; and empowering regional leaders to drive meaningful, long-term economic and social impact. MIT REAP’s frameworks rest on a multistakeholder model––participating teams include members from five key groups of actors in innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystems: government, university, corporate, risk capital, and entrepreneurs.

How is MIT REAP Focus Different from the Global Program?

MIT REAP Global teams participate in cohorts of up to eight teams for a two-year program on innovation-driven entrepreneurship (IDE) ecosystem acceleration and are provided opportunities to collaborate with teams within and across cohorts from multiple parts of the world. The Focus program works with teams within a single region to employ a more targeted IDE ecosystem acceleration model, distinct from Global cohorts and with a customized timeframe. Focus teams adapt the frameworks developed by MIT to broaden and deepen IDE within their respective region. “We understood that there was a need to provide a different offering in which we apply elements of the core MIT REAP Global frameworks, in a bespoke and accelerated approach, with regions that have distinct comparative advantages that can be leveraged at a more local and collective level,” points out Travis Hunter, Director of MIT REAP.

MIT REAP Focus Nova Scotia Aims to Accelerate Inclusive Economic Growth Across the Province

Nova Scotia previously participated in the MIT REAP Global program, Cohort 4 (2016-2018). On the heels of the success of MIT REAP Team Nova Scotia, ONSIDE (Organization for Nova Scotia Innovation-Driven Entrepreneurship), a non-profit organization, was created to amplify the power of IDE and leverage MIT REAP strategies. ONSIDE sought to extend the MIT REAP experience with participation in the Focus program to support broader acceleration of strategies and inclusive economic growth in its region. ONSIDE also believes the Focus program will be instrumental in fostering regional resilience and aid in recovery from the impacts of COVID-19. Learn more about the Focus Nova Scotia program.

“MIT REAP faculty collaborate with key regional stakeholders to develop solutions that are compatible with the region’s history, culture, and key regional drivers of innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Fiona Murray, MIT REAP Faculty Co-Director, William Porter Professor of Entrepreneurship, and MIT Sloan Associate Dean for Innovation and Inclusion. “We are excited to offer a more bespoke, local vision of MIT REAP’s mission to Nova Scotia and future Focus team regions. I’m delighted that MIT colleagues Professor Scott Stern and Dr. Phil Budden will be leading our work along with me as well as the MIT REAP staff, with support from ONSIDE.”

“Nova Scotia has high potential for innovation,” said Alex McCann, Executive Director, ONSIDE. “The MIT REAP Focus program has brought together some of the most resourceful and committed members of our communities to turn this capacity into strategies and action which will drive real economic and social prosperity for our province.”

Successful Focus UK Pilot Sets the Stage for Program Launch

MIT REAP launched the pilot of its new Focus program in the UK in March 2020. With support from Loughborough University, six teams were gathered from across the target region to drive the creation and execution of actionable MIT REAP strategies to strengthen innovation and entrepreneurship. Focus UK leveraged learnings from the MIT REAP Core Cohort 6 team, Leeds City, UK – graduated in October 2020 – to expedite productivity, employment, and returns from research in six additional UK communities. Originally conceived as an intense six-month long program, Focus UK expanded its engagement through March 2021 to accommodate new challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about the Focus UK pilot program.

An example of impact is Focus UK Team Leicester & Leicestershire, who set the goal of growing their regional economy by 5% above the national average within five years. They designed a two-pronged strategy: Bootstraps, for technology diffusion within the region’s existing manufacturing community, and Beacons, or commercial innovation and investment through leading businesses and regional strengths, then began mapping the stakeholders and assets across their region in order to engage the right actors to enhance and build additional innovation and entrepreneurial capacity.

Team Leicester & Leicestershire achieved their substantial first wins of securing innovation leadership buy-in, investments and establishment of an Innovation Board within their local government to drive forward their agenda. The team has also focused on developing a business case for accelerators in manufacturing sectors including textiles, logistics, and food (Bootstraps); and further developing an existing network of innovation accelerators in sectors including space, life sciences, and cybersecurity (Beacons). The team will continue to collaborate with their region's three leading universities to build new skills development programs that foster the next generation of innovation and entrepreneurship leaders, who will accelerate their regional economy.

Sandra Wiggins, entrepreneur, Director of DPI UK, and a member of Team Leicester & Leicestershire said “The Focus program was a game-changer for our region, our business, and my personal and professional growth. The open, honest conversations helped our team understand all stakeholder perspectives and to find solutions that benefit everyone. I’m honored to have participated and look forward to continued growth, as our region’s MIT REAP journey has just begun."

“Participating in the MIT REAP Focus UK pilot was a dynamic experience for the Sheffield City Region Mayoral Combined Authority,” said Paul Johnson, Senior Economic Policy Manager for the Mayoral Combined Authority Executive, Sheffield City Region, and a member of MIT REAP UK Team Sheffield City Region. “MIT REAP insights on how we can support our innovation-driven enterprises has been invaluable as we enhance our business support offers and deliver the inclusive innovation-led growth objectives of our recently published Strategic Economic Plan.”

Get Involved

Regions from across the globe are carefully vetted for acceptance to MIT REAP’s Focus program and must pose a particular “urgency for change” or problem area in their region’s overall system that they want to see addressed. The MIT REAP faculty then work with Focus teams to overcome regional challenges that are hindering the growth of their IDE ecosystem by identifying the comparative advantages and acceleration mechanisms required to promote innovation and entrepreneurship.

For more information on MIT REAP Focus, email reap@mit.edu.

Applications for the MIT REAP Global program are now open. Learn more and apply here.

About the MIT Sloan School of Management

The MIT Sloan School of Management is where smart, independent leaders come together to solve problems, create new organizations, and improve the world. Learn more at mitsloan.mit.edu.

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