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Large businesses’ investment in university knowledge and facilities increased by more than 5 per cent (around £770 million) in 2013-14, while small and medium-sized enterprises benefitted from £200 million of activity, ranging from contract research to professional training.

UK graduates set up over 4,600 new enterprises, an increase of 31 per cent over last year. Income from collaborative research, consultancy, facilities and intellectual property rights all increased by more than 10 per cent. In terms of commercial success, nearly £50 million was brought in by the sale of equity in spin-off companies.

In the global context, the data shows that UK universities outperform those in the USA and Japan in terms of income spin-off equity and proportion of industry-funded research.

Professor Madeleine Atkins, Chief Executive of HEFCE, said:

‘This year’s HE-BCI results demonstrate the strength of the link between universities and enterprise in all its forms. Organisations of all kinds are increasing their investment in university research and innovation, and graduates are increasingly starting their own businesses.  This all suggests a more confident economy and a university sector fully engaged. This is important – the nation faces a productivity gap, and universities have a key part to play in filling it, through their contributions to research and development, innovation and advanced knowledge. The role of universities as “anchors” in their localities is also vital to address long-standing disparities in regional and local productivity across the country.’

Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson said:

‘Our universities are successfully engaging with businesses and the returns from collaborations are now greater than ever before. We must continue to build on this progress so that higher education institutions can make an even bigger contribution to the economy and productivity in the future.’

David Docherty, Chief Executive of the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB) said:

‘The HE-BCI survey demonstrates the resilience of UK universities as engines of collaboration despite recent changes in economic conditions and shifts in policy priorities. The survey is a key source of indicators for the NCUB’s Collaboration Progress Monitor (CPM) and the report, published today, covers challenges facing the sector, such as changes in public support for collaboration across the UK nations following the economic downturn, and the creation of the local enterprise partnerships in England. These changes will be tracked by the CPM and will aid further reflections on policy and practice.’

Dr Ruth McKernan, Chief Executive of Innovate UK said:

'This year’s HE-BCI survey is a great illustration of the economic benefits to businesses and universities of working together, as Dame Ann Dowling highlighted in her recent report. We all have to think about the future and see that encouraging collaborations and business spin outs on this scale is vital to boosting innovation. They will increase productivity, create sustainable growth and help our wider economy benefit from the excellent work of our world class universities.'

Notes

  1. See the results of the 2013-14 Higher Education – Business and Community Interaction survey