15 March 2023 News
15 March 2023 News
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13 March 2023 News
Last updated on Friday 17 Mar 2023 at 2:55pm
The UK is facing a series of long-term economic challenges. To confront increasing regional inequality, flagging productivity and an ever-widening skills gap, universities and local businesses need to work together better. University Enterprise Zones (UEZs) offer a promising solution.
Our report, Our universities: generating growth and opportunity, listed four key recommendations for the UK Government to help enable universities to work with businesses and local government to kickstart growth and opportunity in left-behind areas of the UK.
One of our key recommendations was for the government to establish a University Enterprise Zone (UEZ) in every university in England. We also recommended that devolved administrations consider similar developments in the context of UK and devolved economic policy.
At the moment, UEZs are an England-only programme. However, universities are involved in similar programmes across the devolved nations, such as Interface in Scotland and Enterprise Zones in Wales.
UEZs are a pre-existing programme which have been evaluated by the government to provide excellent return on investment, especially in left-behind areas.
In his Autumn Statement, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced that he would ‘change [the government’s] focus on investment zones, which will now focus on leveraging our research strengths by being centred on universities in left behind areas to help build clusters for our new growth industries.’
This is a great opportunity for the government to help deepen local-level ties between universities, local businesses, and upskilling people in their local communities.
Universities are already deeply embedded in this work through delivering the Help to Grow: Management Course, by providing support to businesses and charities worth more than £11.6 billion over the next five years all the while creating 21,650 new businesses. In fact, many of these programmes are delivered through UEZs.
University Enterprise Zones (UEZs) are specified areas where universities and local business work together to boost productivity, growth, innovation and investment, adding value to local enterprises and business. No two UEZs are identical. Many have specific focuses, such as health tech, digital innovation, or urban design.
UEZs aim to:
In addition to the initial funding pot of £20 million, UEZs set up in 2019 were able to raise an additional £77.3 million. This amounts to an additional £4.50 for every £1 of initial project funding.
A 2018 interim report emphasises the need for revenue funding in addition to capital funding for UEZ projects to be a success. Several UEZs have struggled to properly staff their facilities owing to a lack of revenue funding. The 2019 Research England Development (RED) fund improved on this by building on more revenue funding delivered over the course of two years: however, the interim report notes that to maintain existing or planned levels of productivity, consistent revenue funding is needed.
The 2018 interim report highlights that location has a notable effect on uptake on the UEZ offer. In some cases, university campuses worked well, but in others local businesses preferred other locations owing to their centrality and practical considerations. Successful locations must be convenient for both businesses and academics and students to generate interaction.
UEZs thrive when the projects involve organisations or individuals who have past experience in business support and facility management. This helps with securing tenants, as well as ensuring that tenants are correctly supported.
UEZs across the country are contributing to levelling up, economic growth and achieving science superpower status.
A leading example of the impact UEZs have is the Digital Health Enterprise Zone (DHEZ) in Bradford.
The Digital Health Enterprise Zone (DHEZ) at the University of Bradford works with businesses, health professionals, researchers, students and communities on digital health solutions that put patients first.
The DHEZ’s facilities include a flexible biochemistry laboratory, a blood sampling suite, ophthalmology and physiotherapy clinics, and consulting rooms to assist pharmacists and business to help develop digital health devices for ordinary people. Its eye and physiotherapy clinics are open to the public, with thousands of local residents using its services every year.
Falmouth University’s Launchpad Venture Studio is a business incubator specialising in virtual and online technology. It supports local and student-founded business by providing incubator space, mentoring and advice, and scale-up services such as financing, coaching, advice, and workspace.
In response to a growing tech sector, growing micro businesses and investment across Middlesbrough in digital companies, The Launchpad at Teesside University will support local economic growth.
The project developed the Launchpad, an existing on-campus incubation space, into a mixed-use incubator with 12 small start-up units, 6 large digital studios, 5 micro factories, a community impact bakery and a 50 seat co-working space.
Situated on campus, Future Space supports businesses working in high-tech areas including robotics, digital and creative technologies, health tech and biosciences.
The UEZ, which currently hosts 64 businesses, includes offices, workshops and lab-space for science and tech-based businesses, and has been explicitly designed to encourage innovation, collaboration and inspiration.