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Universities suggest ways of sparking growth across the UK

Universities across the UK are today insisting they can play a bigger role in generating economic growth and are calling on the government to create the conditions to accomplish this in a new report.

The ‘Our universities: generating growth and opportunity’ report, published on Monday by Universities UK, explores ways in which universities can contribute to economic growth, and makes several recommendations such as establishing collaborative hubs for skills development, building on the Help to Grow scheme, and the rapid expansion of University Enterprise Zones (UEZ).

Professor David Petley, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Hull, said:

“Universities have always played a crucial role in sparking growth and developing opportunities through their research, innovation and enterprise.

“As an anchor institution in our region, the University of Hull is committed to driving developments to rebuild the economy as well as working towards a fairer, brighter future for everyone, by addressing social inequalities in our local communities.

“We will continue to deliver real impact, effecting regeneration and change in the region and beyond by reaching out to new partners, building stronger relationships, providing knowledge and skills exchange, training and support to industry, business and third-sector organisations.

“With more than 40 percent of graduates staying in our region after their studies, their advanced knowledge and skills will also have an important role to play in driving economic growth and prosperity here in Hull.

Professor David Petley, University of Hull Vice-Chancellor
Professor Dave Petley, Vice-Chancellor, University of Hull

Last month, the University of Hull was recognised as one of the top performers in research partnerships and its work with the public and third sector – according to KEF2 data published by Research England.

The success of University Enterprise Zone projects across the UK highlights how universities can help to foster positive and impactful partnerships between themselves, local communities and employers.

Through building collaborative hubs for skills development, universities can reach out to their local areas and create opportunities for local people. University Enterprise Zones and universities can play a key role in supporting the success of Investment Zones, one of the new proposals recently put forward by the government to help encourage growth.

Investment in foundational research and research infrastructure is crucial in developing the innovative products and services that drive new businesses and good jobs, in turn leading to economic growth.

As an anchor institution in our region, the University of Hull is committed to driving developments to rebuild the economy as well as working towards a fairer, brighter future for everyone.

Professor Dave Petley

Vice-Chancellor

It is currently estimated that over the next five years UK universities will help form 21,500 new businesses and provide over £11.6 billion of support and services to small enterprises, businesses and not-for-profits. This includes specialist advice, training, access to the latest facilities and equipment to develop innovative products and conducting bespoke research projects.

A priority for the UK government is to stimulate economic growth. The recommendations made in the new report offer a range of ideas for achieving this goal and highlight how well-placed and crucial universities are to supporting growth.

Professor Steve West CBE, President of Universities UK and Vice-Chancellor of UWE Bristol, said:

“Given the gloomy economic outlook and the difficult global situation, we need ambitious and bold action to fire up growth. It is more important than ever that universities can support businesses and charities through their research, innovation, and enterprise, to create a healthier, wealthier, and fairer Britain.”

“Research shows that investment in the higher education sector creates more jobs per pound than equivalent investment in construction, the manufacture of computers and electronics or the public administration sector.”

Skilled Education leads the online aspect of the government’s Help to Grow scheme.

Rajay Naik, the chief executive of Skilled Education, said:

“The Government’s decision to engage over 50 UK universities to deliver the face-to-face learning for Help to Grow underscores the central role of British universities in upskilling the nation. We have an immense skills gap and higher education working in partnership with government and the private sector is a central part of how we must address it.”

Universities making a positive economic impact

  • 4 in 5 universities in England already provide an enquiry point for local SMEs with many already offering some free advice. A company is started, on average, every two hours at UK universities.
  • The University of Hull has supported 1200 Humber-based SMEs, contributed to 54 tonnes in carbon reduction, provided funding for more than 270 SMEs and contributed to the development of 270 new products and services in the region. Last month, the University was recognised as one of the top performers in research partnerships and its work with the public and third sector – according to KEF2 data published by Research England.
  • UUK supports the introduction of a post-18 education loan scheme – the lifelong loan entitlement – to help people study, train or retrain at any point during their lives via flexible courses and believes greater university-business collaboration would support the success of this.
  • For every £1 the government invests in University Enterprise Zones (UEZs), UEZs generate an additional £4.50 in funding.
  • Start ups and spin outs with links to universities are more likely to survive than the average start-up.
  • University affiliated accelerators and incubators are associated with faster sales and jobs growth.
  • The most innovative companies recruit a greater number of graduates.
  • Investment in the higher education sector creates more jobs per pound than equivalent investment in construction, the manufacture of computers and electronics, public administration and defence or health sector.

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