A government push to boost local economies by developing more University Enterprise Zones (UEZ) should follow the example of Nottingham, a Treasury minister says.
Robert Jenrick, who is also MP for Newark, says the University of Nottingham’s existing enterprise zone has created a powerful link between academic research expertise and economic growth in the city.
He visited the zone at the University of Nottingham Innovation Park (UNIP) with Universities Minister Chris Skidmore, who has today announced that more universities across England can apply for funding to develop their own UEZ. By doing so, universities will develop a better understanding of what businesses are looking for from graduates and will increase the link between jobs, growth and productivity.
Nottingham’s UEZ is centred on the former Raleigh Bicycles site in Lenton, which has been transformed into one of the biggest concentrations of research commercialisation in the Midlands, with more than 100 businesses employing 900 people – many focusing on advanced technologies of the future.
Its Ingenuity Lab, which supports student entrepreneurs, has also become one of the most successful of its kind in the country, with 190 student businesses that have a combined turnover exceeding £15m.
Mr Jenrick, who is Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, said: “Our universities are recognised around the world as centres of research and knowledge. At the same time, Britain is a country brimming with entrepreneurs and innovators. We want to bring these two assets together, so that businesses and universities can benefit from what each other has to offer.
“We’ve been extremely impressed by what the University of Nottingham has achieved with its UEZ, which has helped transform a former industrial site into an icon for 21st century progress.
“By making sure universities are equipping graduates with the expertise that surrounding businesses are looking for, and entrepreneurs can operate in business-friendly environments, we can help fire up local economies, create more jobs and boost growth.”
Government says that further University Enterprise Zones will play an important role in driving technological innovation and economic growth. Mr Skidmore explained:
“Our universities are among the best in the world, and when they join forces with our ambitious and innovative small businesses, they have the potential to meet the grand challenges of the future.
“Today’s investment to bring business and academics together will not only lead to the creation of new products and services, it will boost job creation for local areas to feel the benefits of UK innovation which demonstrates our modern Industrial Strategy in action.”
UNIP has just celebrated its 10th anniversary, and plans to build on its existing success by doubling in size over the next decade and becoming a major regional employment site.
University of Nottingham Vice-Chancellor Professor Shearer West says the University Enterprise Zone is a key part of its direct commitment to benefiting the local economy by developing businesses that tackle societal challenges, creating jobs and supporting entrepreneurship.
She said: “We are immensely proud of what has been achieved so far at the University Enterprise Zone, and plan to build on its success by developing both the site and the services it offers in a way that benefits the world around us.
“As a University, we firmly believe that our research expertise can make a valuable contribution to progress both by using technology and ideas to solve some of the problems we’ll face in the future, and by creating opportunities for the partners we work with and the people of our home city.
“We have been delighted to host the two Government ministers and wholeheartedly support their efforts to grow University Enterprise Zones elsewhere. They are an important demonstration of the wider value universities bring to their localities.”
UNIP’s growth plans will see the amount of business space on the site expand to 300,000 square feet, creating room for up to 2,000 jobs in the long term.
It is home to university spin-outs, student businesses, and a number of growing technology companies operating in fields which range from satellite tech to food sustainability.
They sit alongside specialist research institutes operating in fields which include aerospace, advanced manufacturing and new energy technologies.
They are supported by an experienced University commercialisation team which helps researchers explore the business potential of their ideas and secures funding to finance business growth.
On Monday (4 March) the University will also play host to the first meeting of a new Midlands Engine steering group aimed at helping the region realise its ambitious vision for Toton, HS2 and the surrounding area. The meeting will focus on discussing the first phase of work to unlock £2m of Government funding for the creation of a locally-led development corporation to lead on the project.