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Universities and Colleges and the Industrial Strategy - Exploring data on knowledge exchange, research and skills

New report highlights how universities and colleges support the business environment via knowledge exchange and skills development, as well as funding distributions across the Grand Challenges.

The Industrial Strategy Council asked Universities UK to undertake a data exploration project to better understand the contribution of further and higher education to the UK’s Industrial Strategy.

This new report considers what we can learn from looking at more granular data on knowledge exchange, research and innovation and skills development. Given the role of the Industrial Strategy Council it focuses specifically on how universities and colleges support the business environment as well as funding distributions across the Grand Challenges.

While the data has its limitations, we believe this report provides useful insight and the accompanying visualisations, also published today, will allow users to devise and answer their own questions and reach their own conclusions.

Key findings include:

  • University-owned spin-outs (firms using university developed ideas) generated £1.4 billion across the UK in 2018/19. The University of Oxford leads the way with spin-outs reporting turnover of nearly £450 million.
  • There were 20,039 newly-registered graduate start-ups in the last five years and they are more prominent at modern universities than older, research-intensive universities.
  • Graduate start-ups from teaching-led institutions on average have received less external investment than those from research-intensive institutions but have produced comparable collective turnover. The University of Northumbria stands out, being in the top two (by turnover) in all five years of the dataset.
  • For most Grand Challenges, the examined research and innovation funding for businesses is concentrated in London and the South East.
  • Industry-focussed research funding for universities is distributed more widely, particularly among research-intensive institutions, but there is a clear skew towards London and the South East for the Ageing Society and AI and Data Economy Grand Challenges.
  • Funding for the Clean Growth Grand Challenge is widely distributed for universities, while London, Scotland, and the South East lead funding for businesses.
  • There is no obvious correlation between funding inputs and spin-outs or other indices of contributions to local/regional prosperity.

Andy Haldane, Chair of the Industrial Strategy Council said:

‘Universities and colleges are a key foundation of skill-building, innovation, productivity and growth in the economy. But too little is known about the various contributions these institutions make towards our economic success, both locally and nationally. This report brings together the available data to begin to assess and visualize those contributions. I hope it, and the accompanying tools and databases, can inform future debate about the structure and funding of this most vital asset for the UK economy’

Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive of Universities UK said:

‘This report gives an overview of the many ways that universities and colleges are critical to the UK’s prosperity and in spreading economic benefits to every region. By inspiring and supporting the next generation of entrepreneurs, advising businesses and charities, and tackling society’s major challenges, universities are attracting investment, and creating jobs and wealth in their areas. A strong university sector will be an important factor in the success of the government’s levelling up agenda and economic recovery’

Download the Research Paper

Download the Technical Appendix

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