Associate Professor Rebecca Riley MA (Econ), BA (Hons)

Associate Professor Rebecca Riley

Business School
Associate Professor Enterprise, Engagement, and Impact

Contact details

Birmingham Business School
The Exchange
3 Centenary Square
B1 2DR

Rebecca Riley is an experienced researcher, intelligence provider and information professional. She has been helping practitioners and policy makers make decisions and develop solutions for over 20 years. Rebecca has delivered over 200 research and information projects to the public and private sector across economic, social and environmental policy areas. She is a champion of using evidence for decision making, making research accessible and ensuring it has impact. Throughout her career, Rebecca has explored and continue to refine the use of data and intelligence to underpin strategy, policy and practice. Her research areas include place based economic development, skills and the application of economic forecasting.

Rebecca has designed and led information and intelligence services for a wide range of public and private sector organisations, providing bespoke advice and guidance, regular briefing services, commissioning, managing brokerage services for collaborative research, shared on-line research and information portals and network events. She specialises in social research methods with extensive experience in designing and delivering workshops, seminars, and interviews.


Applied researcher in place and policy impact.

  • MA (Econ) Applied Social Research
  • BA (hons) Sociology and Art


Birmingham heroes
State of the region

Rebecca has a career that has spanned, public, private and university sector roles in research and intelligence provision. She was previously Head of Research at the North-West Regional Development Agency (RDA), responsible for research and intelligence services and the Regional Intelligence Unit. Whilst in that role she chaired the national Office for National Statistics Regional Presence Programme, was Vice Chair of the Associate of Regional Observatories, a member of the Cross Departmental Skills Group and the government Managing Information Across Partners Task Force.

After the closure of the RDA, Rebecca set up her own consultancy, delivering economic development research services to Local Authorities and private sector companies. This led to being appointed by Idox, a software house building solutions for government and industry to head up their information services. In this role she had major contracts with central government, the Greater London Authority, Scottish Skills Development, Scottish Enterprise, Irish Universities Association, Welsh Government, Eurofound and many other partners.

Rebecca joined the University of Birmingham to set up the City Region Economic Development Institute (CityREDI) with an aim to build a distinctive local, regional, national and international research platform through the development of a Birmingham approach to understanding and facilitating growth in city regions. This new systemic approach to identifying and conceptualising the inter-dependencies within and between regional economies is providing new opportunities for understanding, conceptualising, modelling, evaluating and comparing economic activity and business trends at the city-region level.


Regional Economic Development

Rebecca's research interests focus on regional economic development research – including research to develop policy and regional strategies, monitoring frameworks, economic forecasting, skills and labour market analysis, and strategic business cases and project evaluation. She applies a mixed methods approach in research, with a strong focus and record of impactful policy-relevant applied research and stakeholder engagement. She is an experienced lead on research projects with over 200 research projects carried out in academia, policy, and consultancy roles. Rebecca is also a peer reviewer for Regional Studies.

Impact, evaluation and business cases

Impact is also a key theme in Rebecca's research so she understands the requirements of research delivery: how research and evidence can make change in the world in which we live. Her research is multidisciplinary and has a broad-based policy focus but at the core of all her work is understanding how research can make change happen. She has an applied, expert knowledge of the development of strategy, business cases, theory of change, impact pathways, evaluation and monitoring frameworks across university, public, private, and voluntary sector projects and programmes. She is recognised within the sector, policy and business circles for delivering impactful work and having a professional team able to work across boundaries, establishing a successful hybrid professional services and academic team to deliver to stakeholders. This gives her the experience, knowledge, and expertise on the requirements of policy makers and businesses which Rebecca applies constantly to the work of the wider team.

Research awards

  • 2022 QR funding – Business Digital Twin partnership programme development (PI)
  • 2022 QR funding – University Policy Forum (CI)
  • 2022 QR Funding – Birmingham Health Partners assessment (CI)
  • 2021 SIPF – Evaluation of the Lucideon Ceramics bid and contribution to winning bid (CI)
  • 2021 QR Review of future trends and future of cities (PI)
  • 2020 Megatrends and city futures QR and match WMCA funding, impact on regional planning and programme development and risk assessment (CI)
  • 2020 Knowledge Exchange Funding: Novel Evaluation methods; Impact adoption of new approach by HEIF on all new funding HEIF (CI)
  • 2020 SIPF Advanced Ceramics impact assessment stage 1 Bid support; Impact shortlisted to stage 2 (CI)
  • 2019 ESRC IAA awards LEP data support and follow-on funding; Impact development of new dashboards for monitoring the performance of the region and reduction in development time (PI)
  • 2019 West Midlands Regional Economic Development Institute; Impact 18 strands of work co funding many of the projects already detailed and completion of 2 impact case studies (WMREDI) £11.2m (CI)
  • 2017 Industrial Strategy Secondment to Cabinet Office – ESRC Impact Accelerator (PI)
  • 2017 Review of the PA Consulting COMPETE model – ESRC Impact Accelerator (PI)
  • 2017 Cross University Regional Partnership, funded via 6 West Midlands Universities (PI)

Other activities

External positions

  • Chair of the National HM Treasury Green Book User group – ensuring the Green Book (national Treasury Guidance for all public spend) has impact on the development of public sector projects and programs (2020 to present)
  • Peer reviewer Regional Studies (2021 to present)
  • Member of the Birmingham Business School Engagement Group (2019 to present)
  • Member Regional Economic Intelligence Group – Economic development directors (2020 to 2022)
  • Member WM Brexit/Covid Intelligence Network (2020 to 2022)
  • Member Steering group – State of Economic Justice in Birmingham and the Black Country (2020 and 2021)
  • Founder of the West Midlands Data, Research, Evaluation, Analysis and Monitoring Group (2020 to present)
  • Member WMCA leadership forum (2018 to 2022)
  • Member Combined authority liaison Group for ONS (2018 to present)
  • Member National Analytics Forum – Essex Centre for Data Analytics (2018 to present)
  • Research Member of the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre (2019 to present)
  • WMCA lead on National Evaluation of Devolution deals and analysis of Gateway Review (2019 to 2022)
  • Regional lead on Research and Analytics with MHCLG, BEIS and Treasury (2018 to present)
  • Member the Office for Data Analytics Working Group West Midlands Combined Authority (2018 to 2022);
  • Member West Midlands Combined Authority Inclusive Growth Unit (2018 to present);
  • Director Midlands Engine Economic Observatory (2016-2020)
  • Member of Midlands Engine Technical Economic Reference Group (2016 to date)
  • Member Birmingham Digital Strategy Advisory Board (2021)
  • Member of Red Flag Innovation Lab (Innovate UK funded 2021 to present)
  • Member of the West Midlands UK Evaluation society regional network (2018 to present)
  • Member Birmingham Anchor Institutions Network (representing University of Birmingham) (2018 to present)
  • Member West Midlands Public Health Intelligence Network (2018 to present)
  • Member WM Local Industrial Strategy Implementation Group (2019 to 2022)

Recent awards

  • 2022 Skills Advisory Panel evidence base for Dept for Education, with Office for Data Analytics; Impact creation of the regional skills plan and sign off by DFE, enable next tranche of regional funding to be released. WMCA (PI)
  • 2021 Midlands Engine Economic Observatory – think pieces and monitors (PI)
  • 2021 Year 2 support for the Office for data analytics DCMS support for commonwealth games, economic monitors and State of the Region (CI)
  • 2020 Colmore Row BID research into post covid futures; impact to develop the future strategy of the city centre and the actions to deliver on future proofing (CI)
  • 2020 Commonwealth Games evaluation Support, DCMS (PI)
  • 2020 Midlands Engine Observatory ongoing support; impact to enable partners to understand the emerging impact of Covid19 and adapt and implement plans (PI)
  • 2020 Mapping the architecture of the economic development policy strategy across the Midlands Engine pan-region; impact to inform the future plans and strategy of ME (CI)
  • 2020 Skills Advisory Panel evidence base for Dept for Education, with Office for Data Analytics; Impact creation of the regional skills plan and sign off by DFE, enable next tranche of regional funding to be released. WMCA (PI)
  • 2020 City Vision – mapping strategies and engagement activity of Birmingham City Council Partners. Impact informing the City Vision Board future direction and plans (PI)
  • 2020 Evaluation of Pivot and Prosper; Impact expansion of the programme based on findings and roll out to other places GBSLEP £25k (CI)
  • 2020 yr 1 Support for the WMCA office for Data analytics £55k, including developing the MIT Reap indicators, R&D Analysis, Contribution to evaluation framework and the SAP. Impact new evaluation framework developed and being implemented, development of innovation fund on findings of work (PI)
  • 2019 Evaluation of Create Central Programme of Activities 2020-2022 WMCA. Impact informing development of other programmes and projects (PI)
  • 2019 Assessing the BPFS sector outside London, BEIS (PI)
  • 2019 Policy and Evidence Centre, AHRC (CI)
  • 2018 Wealth Bringers Birmingham Anchor Institutions Network CLES (PI)
  • 2018 Midlands Engine Economic Observatory (PI)
  • 2018 Business and Professional Services Deep Dive, WMCA (PI)
  • 2018 International Review of Knowledge Transfer Networks, KTN Ltd (PI)
  • 2018 Measuring Success - Review of monitoring indicators and forecasts for the Skills and Productivity Commission, WMCA (PI)
  • 2018 Wolverhampton Economic Assessment, Wolverhampton City Council (PI)
  • 2018 Sector mapping – low carbon emissions vehicle sector £20k Energy Systems Catapult (PI)
  • 2018 Sector mapping – industrial energy sector £20k Energy Systems Catapult (PI)
  • 2018 Economic impact case study and modelling for the Big Store, Birmingham Museums Trust. £10k (PI)
  • 2017 Birmingham Economic Review, Greater Birmingham, and Solihull Chamber of Commerce (PI)

Speaker opportunities

  • Speaker – ARMA – place matter seminar series (2022)
  • Speaker Civic Universities Network on research into Impact roles in universities (2021)
  • Speaker BEIS analyst Group on Covid Monitoring (2020)
  • Speaker Launch of the HM Treasury Green Book (2020)
  • Speaker round table Robert Jenrick MP on Impact of covid on tourism (2020)
  • Speaker Anchor Institutions Network on impact of Covid on regional performance (2020)


Smith A, Riley R et al (2022) Megatrends and the West Midlands. University of Birmingham/WMCA

Riley R (2021) case study for ‘Recovery form Covid 19 at the Local Level using data to inform decision making’, What Works Centre for Local Economic development 2021

Riley R (2021) WMREDI case study featured as best practice - Place based approaches to research funding, The British Academy, 2021

Riley R (2020) Contribution to KEF submission WMREDI/City-REDI Case study

Bramley G, Riley R et al (2020) – Treasury Committee formal evidence ‘economic impact of coronavirus’

Riley R (2019) - Case study for ‘Truly Civic: Strengthening the Connection between Universities and their Places’ UPP 2019

Riley R (2016) - Case study City REDI Chartered Association of Business Schools – delivering Value to local and Regional Economies

Riley R; Green A; Collinson S; Ortega-Argiles R (2021)- Book Chapter ‘The Art of informing and impacting policy’ ESRC Innovation Caucus, Elgar (in final edit)

Green A, Riley R (2021) - Book Chapter ‘Handbook or Research on Remote Work and Worker Well-being in the post Covid19 Era” – chapter 10 Implications for Places or Remote Working, IGI Global

Sevinc D, Green R, Bryson J, Collinson S, Riley R, Adderley S; (2020)  Ensuring Skills are available in the right locations; are we there yet? A regional analysis of the qualification gap, Regional Studies

Riley R., Billing C, Bramley G, Green A, Hoole C and Taylor A (2018) ‘Professional & Business Services Sector: Creating Further Demand and Growth Outside London’, BEIS Research Paper 2020/006

View all publications in research portal