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The survey shows that the higher education sector is making good progress. Interest is also higher than the previous 2007-2013 programme. The ESIF brings together different strands of EU funding to support a programme for local economic growth. This focuses on innovation, research and development, support for SMEs, low carbon, skills, employment and social inclusion.

The survey indicates that the sector is generally working well with Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs). Many universities have invested in the capacity of LEPs and the new local ESIF subcommittees, through dedicating staff time, secondments or other support, and have helped to shape the LEP’s strategic planning, through provision of data, intelligence and analysis. They are now closely involved in the design of the annual implementation plans. 

Many universities have aspirations for collaborative activities that cross LEP borders. But they also report that the business processes needed to work collaboratively with LEPs and collections of individual activities -  characterised as ‘operations’ -  require more work. 

Kevin Richardson, HEFCE’s Local Growth expert welcomes the survey’s findings: 

‘Universities, LEPs and the Department for Communities and Local Government are working well together, and there are many projects being brought forward which we are confident will lead to economic growth. However there is still more work to be done in the area of smart specialisation, low-carbon economy and social innovation, and we hope to make these more of a priority in the year ahead.’ 


  1. Assessment of university involvement with ESIF funding 2014 — 2020
  2. The new programme is worth approximately £6 billion over the next seven years.