From education to employment

Investing in University Enterprise Zones (UEZs) could contribute to government goals

Universities UK calls on the government to:

  • Establish a UEZ in every university in the UK
  • Use the UK’s pioneering university sector to support the growth of SMEs (small to medium-sized enterprises) and economic recovery
  • Invest in spaces where universities and businesses collaborate
  • Create learning and career opportunities in left behind areas

In a recent speech, the Secretary of State for the new Department for Science, Innovation and Technology outlined the department’s “singular goal” of leading the UK to science and technology superpower status by 2030. In the run up to the Spring Budget, Universities UK (UUK) in its latest report calls on the government to invest in University Enterprise Zones and use the UK’s pioneering universities to drive SME growth and rebuild the economy. 

Since their launch in 2014, UEZs have brought outstanding economic and social benefits. UEZ’s created in 2019 showed a phenomenal return on investment, generating £4.50 from every £1 of government investment. Their value to local economies is remarkable. The University of the West of England’s Future Space SME added £16.9 million to the local economy, whilst Falmouth University’s venture studio, Launchpad leveraged £21 million.

UEZs focus on creating and supporting SMEs, resulting in transformative products and services. They allow businesses to benefit from university enterprise teams, access to state-of-the-art facilities and research support. A standout example is ‘Codices’, one of the 66 businesses supported by Falmouth’s UEZ. Codices provides tools for online broadcasters and is now working with streaming giants Disney Plus, Amazon Prime and the English Premier League. It is now valued at £8.7 million and has been nominated for multiple awards. 

On top of their direct economic output, UEZs create thousands of jobs and opportunities, boosting regeneration. A leading example is the Digital Health Enterprise Zone (DHEZ) in Bradford, which has trained adult care workers in the latest digital healthcare tech, provided experiential learning for students and hosted vaccine trials in the height of the pandemic. This is a model for how UEZs can help the UK tackle skills shortages in healthcare, and with its focus on AI developments, the UEZ feeds into the government’s ambition for the UK to become a science and technology superpower by 2030.

Professor Liz Breen, DHEZ Director at the University of Bradford:

“The Digital Health Enterprise Zone has brought together local healthcare workers, researchers and SMEs in Bradford, with the shared goal of revolutionising healthcare to improve and save lives. 

“We are especially proud of our DHEZ’s role in the pandemic response. Over 700 people volunteered to take part in the Novavax trials which transformed the way we support patients recovering from COVID today and provedthe impact of working collaboratively. Our DHEZ is an evergreen solution to growth in Bradford. We hope that the businesses the DHEZ has fostered will go on to share their knowledge and experience with future businesses.”

Steve Cox, Head of Launchpad venture studio at Falmouth University:

“As an anchor institution with strong roots in Falmouth and Cornwall, University Enterprise Zones could provide a further boost for SMEs and start-ups who help to drive economic growth and provide training, skills and jobs in the region. Falmouth University has always championed creativity and our venture studio, Launchpad, is a place where both local and student-founded businesses can flourish.

“Solving the most pressing challenges and complex problems of our time is at the heart of our mission in the years ahead. We’re working with more SMEs and partners than ever before, who are taking advantage of Falmouth’s community of creative tech and entrepreneurship graduates to maximise the opportunities brought about by data, AI and immersive technologies.”

Professor Steve West CBE, vice-chancellor of UWE Bristol and President of UUK:

“Our UEZ is focused on health tech, robotics, genomics, assisted technologies and diagnostics. All at the heart of our future. Future Space is filled with exciting new technologies that, thanks to our network of thriving local businesses, can help make the world a better place. The collective power of communities all over the UK is key to the government’s goal of becoming a science superpower by 2030. UEZs prove that universities have the resources and potential to lift us out of economic decline. We just need the right support, investment and commitment from government.”

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