Home > Policy and analysis > Innovation, growth and skills

Innovation, growth and skills

Universities play a vital role in supporting business and communities, promoting local and national economic growth and innovation, and supplying highly skilled and employable graduates. ​​


 

We encourage collaboration and the exchange of knowledge between universities and businesses, local authorities, professional bodies, charities and a wide range of other stakeholders to ensure that businesses and employers are supported to grow, become more innovative and productive, and can access the skills that they need.​

Supporting and promoting universities' contribution to innovation, growth and skills​

Our work on innovation, growth and skills covers a range of areas and projects. In all of these we seek to support and promote the significant efforts universities are already making.

  • Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF)
  • Impact of universities
  • English devolution
  • Knowledge exchange
  • European Structural and Investment Funds
  • Skills
  • Degree apprenticeships

​Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF)

We strongly support the Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF), which supports a wide range of knowledge exchange and enterprise activities in English universities, delivering an estimated £9.70 in benefits for the economy and society for every £1 in spending.

HEIF provides stable and flexible support for the commercialisation of research. It helps universities to sustain collaborations with businesses, charities, Local Enterprise Partnerships and the local community, and to promote enterprise and entrepreneurship among their own students and staff. ​

Impact of universities​

We research and promote the economic impact of universities across the UK and the value they add nationally, regionally and locally. In 2014 our economic impact report demonstrated that universities generated £73 billion of output and supported over 750,000 full-time jobs in 2011–12 alone.​

We are in the process of reviewing the methodology we use for measuring the impact of universities to discover if it can better reflect the multiple ways in which universities have an economic impact on the UK, their region and their local area.

English devolution

Universities have a central role to play in the ongoing devolution of funding and services to local areas. As providers of education and skills, significant economic actors, large employers, key partners of public services and leaders in local growth initiatives, universities have the people and knowledge to help drive local growth, and have much to offer in strengthening and delivering devolution settlements.

We are working with universities, the Local Government Association, the government's Cities and Local Growth Unit and HEFCE to recognise and enhance the role of universities in the devolution process.

Knowledge exchange​

University collaboration with businesses and the wider community (activity known as 'knowledge exchange') plays an important part in improving the UK's economic growth and productivity, and in the success of our public services.

We work with the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), higher education sector experts and representatives of the business community to increase understanding of the role universities play to encourage exchange of best practice between academia and business. We are working with HEFCE to develop a knowledge exchange framework to enable universities to share best practice and benchmark their performance.​

European Structural and Investment Funds​

In England we represent the sector in the European Structural Investment Funds Programme, which universities use to help them collaborate with businesses, charities and Local Enterprise Partnerships on innovation, skills development, and business support and advice.​

England has been allocated €6.9 billion from the European Union's European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Social Fund (ESF) between 2014 and 2020.

We produce regular ESIF webcasts offering analysis and guidance; maintain a Universities and Local Growth LinkedIn group, and an email list to which we circulate ESIF Growth Programme Board papers.

Skills​

We support the development of strong links between universities and employers to boost the employability of graduates and recognition of the value of graduate skills. The UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) has shown that 84% of employers rate graduate employability skills as good or very good and only a very small proportion of graduates lacked key skills.​

Degree apprenticeships​

We are working to support the development of the new degree apprenticeships in England and the development of wider apprenticeships policy across the UK.

Higher Education Employer Trailblazer

We are working with Southampton Solent University and Staffordshire University who are leading the Higher Education Employer Trailblazer consortium responding to the introduction of apprenticeship standards.

Report cover

The funding challenge for universities

Report
7 November 2013
In the wake of significant reforms to the ways universities are funded, both universities and government are faced by a number of challenges and financial pressures.

Massive open online courses report cover

Massive open online courses: higher education's digital moment?

Report
3 May 2013
Massive open online courses (MOOCs) offer millions of people to study courses by distinguished scholars and connect with learners around the globe.

Report page

Universities enabling social enterprise: delivering benefits for all

Report
15 November 2012
Highlights some of the good work happening in universities to support social enterprise activity.

Beyond bricks and mortar boards: universities and the future of regional economic development

Report
13 February 2012
This report is based on joint work by IPPR North and Universities UK to understand better the impact of recent changes to regional and local structures and the emerging relations between universities and regions.

Driving economic growth report

Driving economic growth

Report
1 December 2011
This publication highlights the critical role UK universities will continue to play in reviving and sustaining economic growth across the country.

Big ideas front cover

Big ideas for the future: UK research that will have a profound effect on our future

Report
16 June 2011
Big ideas for the future is a joint report by Universities UK and Research Councils UK, published as part of the second annual Universities Week campaign.

Degrees of value: How universities benefit society

Report
15 June 2011
This report attempts to put a monetary value on some of the ways that universities contribute to society at both a local and a national level, using Social Return on Investment (SROI) methodology.

Creating Prosperity: the role of higher education in driving the UK’s creative economy

Report
11 February 2011
Summarises the findings of research commissioned by Universities UK into the role and contribution of higher education in the UK’s creative economy.

Making an economic impact: higher education and the English regions

Report
28 July 2010
This is the first published study of the impact of the higher education sector on the English regions.

Report cover

The impact of universities on the UK economy - 4th report

4 November 2009
2009 study looking at the impact of the higher education sector on the UK economy.

Blog

Government’s industrial strategy – a good opportunity for universities

27 November 2017
Universities UK's Julie Tam looks at the UK government's new industrial strategy and highlights a number of opportunities for universities.

Universities, place and the industrial strategy

9 October 2017
James Ransom, Policy Researcher at Universities UK, highlights the role universities play in their local areas and outlines three ways in which this role can be strengthed.

News

Industrial strategy white paper

27 November 2017
Response to the launch of the UK government's industrial strategy.

Economic impact of UK universities

Increasing impact of world-leading university sector on jobs and growth should not be ‘taken for granted’, warn university leaders

16 October 2017
According to the latest study on the impact of the higher education sector on the economy – produced for UUK by Oxford Economics – universities now generate a knock-on impact of nearly £100bn (£95bn) for the UK economy and support more than 940,000 jobs

The team

Gilmar Queiros

Gilmar Queiros

Policy Intern – HE Trailblazer
Universities UK

James Ransom

James Ransom

Policy Researcher
Universities UK

Julie Tam

Julie Tam

Deputy Director of Policy
Universities UK

Greg Wade

Greg Wade

Programme Manager
Universities UK