30 March, 2012, by Francine Pickering

Beyond Bricks and Mortar Boards

Universities and the future of regional economic development Beyond bricks and mortar boards

Post by Francine Pickering, Ingenuity

“The major challenge facing policymakers is how to return the economy to growth. A key government aim is to ‘rebalance the economy’ to be less reliant on public sector jobs, the financial services industry and the Greater South East. Universities have an important role to play in delivering this agenda.”

So opens the recent report from IPPR and Universities UK, which explores the opportunities for universities to contribute more to their local economy and considers some of the obstacles to them doing so.

Universities make a substantial contribution to the local economy, acting on some of the key factors that drive growth: skills, investment and innovation.

  • They are major employers in the local economy;
  • They play a key role in upskilling individuals and attracting talent into the area;
  • They play a role in attracting inward investment.
  • The spending power of their staff and students has a multiplier effect throughout the local economy.

There is a great deal of potential for universities to make an even greater contribution through:

  • Increased influence on private sector innovation – firms which collaborate with universities seem to show better performance.
  • Improving their infrastructure for working with business through contract research and consultancy, as well as delivering workforce development services.
  • Greater numbers of University start-ups and spin-outs commercialising research, and student start-ups.
  • Increasing graduate retention in the region’s workforce.

The report makes recommendations to government and universities and Local Enterprise Partnerships. One of the recommendations for universities is to build relationships and create networks with local businesses but the report states that “beyond the formal structures for business engagement through consultancy contracts and knowledge transfer partnerships, it is not clear that universities fulfil the vision of the civic university where engagement with local business is integrated fully into a university’s activities.”

Ingenuity is the means by which the University of Nottingham has, for a number of years, been developing a network of just the sort recommended in this report through our regular breakfast knowledge and networking events. Not only can business owners hear the latest research and views from Nottingham University Business School and wider University but the events also provide a forum for them to find out about other resources and initiatives that they can access through the University.

Do take a look at the report and share your views here. Let us know what else you would like to see the University doing to work with the local business community.

Beyond Bricks and Mortar Boards
Universities UK

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