Higher education institutions increase contribution to the economy and productivity

There has been an increase of 10 per cent in the volume of interactions between universities and the economy and society, from £3.6 billion in 2012-13 to over £3.9 billion in 2013-14 says the 2013-14 Higher Education – Business and Community Interaction (HE-BCI) survey.

“Data collected for the academic year 2013-14 shows a continuing increase in the exchange of knowledge between UK HEIs and the public, private and third sectors” says the report.

UK graduates set up 4,603 new enterprises in 2013-14, an increase of 31.4 per cent over last year. The number of graduate start-ups surviving three or more years rose by 18.4 per cent.

Large businesses’ investment in university knowledge and facilities was at £769 million in 2013-14, an increase of 5.4 per cent on the previous year. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) also increased their overall spending to a total of £201 million in 2013-14, up 11.2 per cent on the previous year. Income to HEIs from the public and third sectors increased by 3.1 per cent to £1,335 million in 2013-14.

Wonkhe HEFCE HE-BCI total income by partner type

The total income for collaborative research increased to £1,144 million, up by 20.3 per cent says the report. Contract research income increased by 2.3 per cent to £1,192 million with increased investment from large businesses and SMEs of 4.7 per cent and 9.8 per cent respectively. There was an increase of just over 10% for income from consultancy, rising to £441 million in 2013-14.

Wonkhe HEFCE HE-BCI income by activity and partner

The income from use of facilities and equipment rose to £163 million (up 15.1 per cent). Intellectual property income increased significantly from £87 million to £131 million (up 51.3 per cent). Regeneration income to UK HEIs increased by 5 per cent to £181 million. There was a rise in income from continuing professional development from £653 million to £678 million in 2014-14 says the report.

Looking at social, community and cultural activities, the report notes a decline in attendance at public events. Attendee numbers have fallen by 41.9 per cent at free events and by 29.1per cent at chargeable events. “This fall can be largely attributed to a small number of outliers responsible for returning a sizeable portion of the activity recorded under this heading experiencing a significant fall in their volume of recordable activity this year. However, many free event categories saw rises in attendees.”

“Knowledge exchange activity from the UK higher education sector has substantially improved, with increases across most indicators and an increase in total income of 10.1 per cent from 2012-13 (£3.6 billion) to 2013-14 (£3.9 billion)” says the report. While there have been small decreases in European regeneration funding and other local and regional reintegration funds, there has been a rise of 40.3 per cent in UK government regeneration funds in 2013-14.

The most important single most reported contribution HEIs make to economic development is ‘Research collaboration with industry’, followed by ‘Knowledge exchange’.

Wonkhe HEFCE HE-BCI top areas of economic impact HEIs

“At a time of growth in the economy following a prolonged period of economic difficulty, growth in knowledge exchange income and activity provides an excellent case for continued public investment in higher education and specifically in knowledge exchange funding streams” says the report.

“The role of universities as “anchors” in their localities is also vital to address long-standing disparities in regional and local productivity across the country” said Professor Madeleine Atkins, Chief Executive of HEFCE.

Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson said; “Our universities are successfully engaging with businesses and the returns from collaborations are now greater than ever before. We must continue to build on this progress so that higher education institutions can make an even bigger contribution to the economy and productivity in the future.”

Find the full report here.

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