Beyond bricks and mortar boards: universities’ role in building regional economies
This report explores the opportunities for universities to contribute more to their local economy in the new economic development landscape. Wider changes could present an opportunity for universities to increase their influence and impact on their local economy, but universities are also facing financial uncertainty.
Universities have a substantial contribution to make to the local economy, acting on some of the key factors that drive growth: skills, investment and innovation. They are also major employers in the local economy, and play a key role in upskilling individuals and attracting talent.
At present, universities appear to have a small influence on private sector innovation in general, with a relatively small number of firms interacting with them to meet their innovation needs. However, those firms that do collaborate with universities do seem to show better performance.
There are, however, opportunities for universities to expand their economic growth contribution without committing to large amounts of additional expenditure. Indeed, in a time of economic uncertainty, as funding policy for universities changes, engagement with business could offer universities an opportunity to diversify their income streams while also contributing to economic growth.
This report makes recommendations to government, to the universities sector and to local enterprise partnerships to maximise development and growth opportunities for all parties. It also presents a framework for assessing the impact and priorities of clusters of universities with different roles and emphases: skills and knowledge creators, university towns, local developers, investment attractors, and local entrepreneurs.
Will Cook, Associate Fellow
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