Universities and SMEs work together to drive innovation and growth

New research reveals education/industry engagement is driving innovation and employment as well as boosting local economies.

Almost three-quarters of small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in the UK have worked with a university or higher education institution in the past year according to new research published by the Institute of Directors and Universities UK.

Key to those engagements are the areas of professional development, research and working with current and recent students.

SMEs are benefiting from the 3.7million days of continuing professional development (CPD) courses delivered by universities annually, and close working with universities on the employment pool also emerged as a trend with many talking on students for work placements and internships, employing recent grads and post grads and even getting students working on live business projects as part of a course.

“This research uncovers an ever-growing network of universities and small businesses delivering genuine innovation on the frontline of British business,” says Miles Templeman, director general of the Institute of Directors. “We hear all the time of exceptional ways that smaller companies are working closely with universities to mutual benefit. It’s good for universities and good for the economy. We want to see these relationships grow even stronger.”

In addition, the research showed that universities have changed their culture over the past 10 years to be more commercial and business facing.

“With nearly half of businesses reporting that universities are becoming more business savvy, it is clear that both parties can see the wealth of opportunities that are available and are adapting to reflect that,” says Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK.

“We know that universities are often the lifeblood of their local economy and are UK-wide worth over £59 billion annually. But as higher education enters a new era, it is crucial that universities work even harder to cement their position as vital parts of their local, as well as national economy. Working with SMEs will be key to this.”

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