Many thanks to those who joined us for very helpful discussion in Bristol last week about our soon-to-be-published review of business advice policy.
A group of about thirty representatives from local authorities, LEPs, and private sector economic development consultancies from around the region, from Cornwall to Preston, met in the Old City Hall to discuss our preliminary findings and give us their thoughts.
We had a lively discussion on many aspects of business advice. We focused particularly on why business advice might be better at improving some aspects of firm performance, but not others.
We also had lots of discussion on why we know so little about the way in which effectiveness depends on specific features of business advice (e.g. the intensity of support). A number of participants suggested that a key problem was the frequency of changes in the policy landscape in this country (which many see as a long run problem, not unique to any particular government; or even unique to this country). At the least, such frequent changes make follow-up and long term evaluations of effectiveness more challenging. This is one of the reasons why the evidence base for this policy area is relatively small. Only 23 studies met our criteria for consideration, and a substantial number are for policies which have been given time to bed in, allowing a more in-depth assessment of their impact.