Higher Education Funding Council England (HEFCE)
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Universities' influence on economy grows

The Higher Education - Business and Community Interaction (HE-BCI) survey, published last week, revealed that higher education's contribution to the economy continued to grow in 2006-07, reaching record levels. UK higher education institutions (HEIs) received £2.64 billion from business and community interaction in 2006-07. This is a 17 per cent rise from the last survey (for 2005-06).

Universities and colleges increasingly play an important part in keeping the UK connected to the global economy and attracting investment and talent to the country. Through interacting with business and the community they help turn knowledge into new companies, products and services. They also deliver professional training to improve skills, provide consultancy to solve problems and undertake projects to tackle social challenges.

Collaborative research is a crucial vehicle for universities to work with leading-edge innovators around the world. In 2006-07 UK HEIs' income in this area was nearly £670 million, 12 per cent more than the previous year. Income from consultancy and training also rose significantly.

Science and Innovation Minister, Ian Pearson, said:

'Universities are shifting up a gear when it comes to working with business and making an economic impact. In percentage growth terms, collaborative research with industry in the UK is growing at a faster rate than the Chinese economy.

'Over the next ten years the UK will increasingly compete with other countries in terms of the ability of our universities to work with business to provide a global edge.

'Companies large and small can improve their performance by drawing on the knowledge and skills within higher education. I want to see even more doing so in the future.'

Table of UK key data from the survey

2005-06 2006-07 % change
Collaborative research income (£ million) 596 669 12
Consultancy income (£ million) 242 288 19
Equipment and facilities income (£ million) 90 93 3
Regeneration and development income (£ million) 227 265 17
Disclosures of potentially exploitable inventions 3,366 3,746 11
Spin-offs with some HEI ownership older than three years 669 739 10

Further data examples are given below in the Notes.

As well as working in the commercial world, higher education helps public services and the voluntary and charitable sectors tackle critical social and environmental challenges, such as climate change and an ageing population. Around half of total income to HE in 2006-07 came from such public and 'third' sector bodies.

Much of HE's support in addressing social problems is through research, with £446 million of contract research undertaken with the public and third sectors out of a total of £783 million. (Total contract income into UK HE grew by 20 per cent between 2005-06 and 2006-07.)

Professor David Eastwood, Chief Executive of HEFCE, said:

'I am very pleased by the results the HE sector has achieved over the last year, and impressed by the year-on-year increases in nearly all indicators over the period we have been running the HE-BCI survey. This validates the sustained support we have given to this agenda since 1999 through our third stream funding.

'HEIs have shown their commitment by putting in place a solid infrastructure for working with businesses and the community. Over 90 per cent of HEIs now provide an enquiry point for small and medium-sized enterprises and similar percentages provide bespoke education courses, on campus or in the workplace.

'The challenges from the world economic downturn will have an impact on this agenda in future. But I believe that HE's contribution to the potential of a knowledge-based society will be even more important as a result, and we need to keep the faith in providing public support.'

CBI Director-General, Richard Lambert, said:

'University and business collaboration has come a long way in the past decade, and especially the last five years. The continued increase in joint activity with business attests to this.

'A strong relationship between the sectors is critical to helping the UK maintain competitiveness. And both sides can benefit - businesses from new thinking and high quality graduates, universities from practical insights that enrich their teaching and research, as well as much needed funding.

'Of course, there is scope for even greater interaction between academia and business in the UK, and the government must continue its efforts to bring down any remaining barriers to making this happen.

'A scheme already piloted where small and medium-sized firms were given a voucher towards their first engagement with a university, is one good way to encourage collaboration with a broader range of firms.'

Notes to editors

1. The HE-BCI survey report is published jointly by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). It was produced by HEFCE on behalf of DIUS, the four UK funding bodies and other HE stakeholders.

2. The HE-BCI survey covers a range of activities, from the commercialisation of new knowledge, through the delivery of professional training, consultancy and services, to activities intended to have direct social benefits. 'Business' in this context refers to public and private sector partners of all sizes and sectors, with which HEIs have a broad spectrum of interactions. 'Community' in this context is taken to mean society as a whole outside the HEI, including all social, civic and cultural organisations and individuals.

3. Data given in this press release may vary from the published report due to rounding.

4. 160 UK HEIs responded to the survey.

5. Patents are only one way of protecting certain types of intellectual property, see www.patent.gov.uk for further information.

6. A 'spin-off' is an enterprise that has one or more of the following attributes:

  • an HEI or HEI employee(s) possesses equity stakes
  • it has been created by an HEI
  • it has been set up by HEI employees to enable the commercial exploitation of knowledge arising from academic research.

7. Some additional selected data:

Knowledge transfer indicator 2005-06 2006-07 % change since 2005-06
Contract research income (£ million) 651 783 20.3
Contract research income from commercial business (£ million) 300 337 12.3
Consultancy income from commercial business (£ million) 116 126 8.6
Number of licences and options executed 2,707 3,286 21.4
Gross income from intellectual property (£ million) 58 58 0.0
Number of spin-offs ** 187 226 20.9

2006-072007-08% change
HEIs providing short bespoke courses on companies' premises (%) 84 83 -1
Full-time equivalent staff dedicated to engaging with commercial partners 3,461 3,834 10.8%
An enquiry point for small and medium-sized enterprises (% of UK HEIs) 91 92 1%

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