June 22, 2017, by Liz Cass
How a £200m investment will help break free from Brexit
How to deal with unexpected long-term uncertainty is the great challenge facing Britain today.
The decision of the people of Britain to leave the European Union might be almost a year old but, as the recent General Election has shown, complexity and confusion surrounding the implications of this choice is only increasing. We have heard the phrase ‘Global Britain’ used to describe an eventual destination for our nation – but without an awful lot of detail about what this might actually mean.
Naturally, at the University of Nottingham, an institution renowned for its pioneering approach to global connectivity; we have been evaluating how we respond.
Part of the problem facing the UK at the moment is that uncertainty saps confidence. Businesses put investment in jobs, research and development and expansion on hold; consumers may not make that purchase; and the economy as a whole slows as caution and risk aversion become dominant factors in decision-making.
Universities are not immune from the effects of uncertainty. When you educate 44,000 students across the world, employing 9,000 people – as the University of Nottingham does, you can appreciate that delivering the many ingredients of an exceptional student experience – from hiring world-class lecturers, to catering and hall space – requires an enormous amount of planning. If this sometime feels like steering a super tanker through choppy waters, it is fair to say that Brexit represents a perfect storm of rain, wind, fog and rocks all at the same time.
To continue the nautical theme, Universities are institutions anchored in their cities and communities. Most were established to address critical civic needs, delivering skills, knowledge and innovation to our regions. We cannot simply move the factory somewhere else, nor would we ever want to.
Many universities in the UK now sail global seas of talent, ideas and opportunity – but this is not at the expense of what we do for local communities – instead it allows us to do more. The University of Nottingham provides 5 per cent of the city’s entire economy, and our international students boost the UK with an extra £128 million a year in economic impact. We support a burgeoning trade and investment relationship between the cities of Nottingham and Ningbo China, even hosting a Trade and Invest in Nottingham Office on our campus on the other side of the world.
The value of our global presence and international outlook to our local mission is incontrovertible.
Our conclusion? We must meet uncertainty with confidence. We must embrace ambition and dynamism, rooting out the opportunities that emerge from the challenge. Most of all, we must seek to shape our own destiny and that of our city, region and nation.
To that end, we have today announced a £200m investment in our vision for the future of Global Britain.
This is a £200m boost for research and innovation that will mean Nottingham solutions will be found to some of the world’s most pressing problems; from tackling the scourge of modern slavery, food security and revolutionising the very building blocks of the way in which the global economy makes the products we all use.
Our six new Beacons of Excellence, when combined, help address every one the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and leverage our cutting-edge scientific facilities for Crop Science in Malaysia and the Marine Economy in China. But they are also rooted in driving innovation and invention grounded in our local context – be this via our long standing partnerships with the Midlands’ great transport companies, our world-renowned agri-tech campus or in efforts to make Nottingham the world’s first slavery-free city. We want to work with Government to deliver an Industrial Strategy that makes the Midlands a real engine of growth, jobs and invention renowned the world over.
This is funding that, over the next five years will bring the world’s best and brightest to live, work and make a home in Nottingham, but also take our people, ideas and the innovation and businesses they create to the world. It is one of the most ambitious investments in research and innovation ever made in the East Midlands. Over time it will drive the creation of discoveries, spin-out companies and jobs.
So this is our vision for what we think Global Britain should look like. A Britain that continues to use its enviable ingenuity and pioneering spirit, with conviction, to shape our communities and our world more broadly for the better. A Britain that moves on from Brexit.
To discover more visit our extraordinary world.