Essex among best universities for community engagement and local growth

  • Date

    Wed 31 Mar 21

Essex Business School

The University of Essex is one of the best universities for engaging with the community and helping generate local growth and regeneration, according to a new Government report.

The first Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF), published today by Research England, shows the rich contributions English higher education providers make, both economically and socially, on both local and national levels.

The findings show Essex is performing above average in several key areas. It is in the top 10% for its work with the public and third sector and in the top 20% for its public and community engagement and work on local growth and regeneration. The University also performed well for commercialisation and research partnerships.

Dr Rob Singh, Director of Essex’s Research and Enterprise Office, said: “Benefiting society through our research is part of the DNA of the University of Essex and we have been working hard to establish an even wider range of connections to business and the public sector over the past few years.

“As a result, our collaborative research income has more than doubled in the last four years and the work this has supported is positively impacting the regional and national economy.”

Essex contributes over £500 million to the regional economy annually and, in partnership with government bodies, businesses and charities from regional to international level, puts its research into action to improve people’s lives and inform debates around policy development and implementation.

Key achievements include: 

  •  securing £60m investment for the Knowledge Gateway research and technology park, which forms a regional hub for innovation
  •  a portfolio of 35 Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs), involving 78 academics in partnerships that have delivered substantial value to business
  • 25 evaluations including Sport England and an evaluation of A Better Start Southend, a programme supporting children in areas of deprivation
  • spin-outs, including Ultrasoc Ltd, which was acquired by Siemens in 2020 demonstrating the value of Essex’s research
  • angel investment network, developed by Essex with University Enterprise Zone funding, which accelerates growth with early-stage finance to support the development of a new cluster of innovative businesses in combination with its £14m Innovation Centre
  • helping businesses respond to COVID-19 challenge by delivering Business Resilience webinars to 218 businesses

Public and community engagement is key to the University’s vision to “tackle with rigour the questions that matter for people and communities”.

Essex’s three campuses at Colchester, Southend and Loughton are at the heart of their local communities. Through a broad and varied outreach programme, schoolchildren come to explore higher education, businesses work and collaborate with it, visitors attend lectures to learn about its research expertise and audiences enjoy its full and varied arts programme.

Professor Chris Greer, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research (Designate) at Essex, said: “Knowledge exchange and the impact it generates have always been integral to research at Essex. The University’s founding commitment to collaborate with external stakeholders to address the national need continues to drive our current mission: excellence in education and research, for the benefit of individuals and communities. It is in partnership with others, co-producing solutions to the problems that matter, that our research is at its most transformational.

“We are delighted to see the KEF has acknowledged Essex’s excellent track record in its commitment to knowledge exchange and sharing expertise. Our research is wide ranging, ensuring local, national and global communities benefit from the work carried out by our researchers.”

Key public engagement achievements include:

  • an extensive programme of student volunteering, tackling a wide range of projects to meet the needs of the local community, charities and schools, including innovative online projects during the pandemic. In 2018-19 the Students’ Union V-Team achieved 36,000 hours through 110 projects working with 70 organisations
  • providing services such as the University’s Law Clinic, which provide free, confidential legal advice and the Human Rights Centre’s Outreach Programme, which explores with local communities the challenges they face
  • improving community service for vulnerable people by using its wealth of expertise in data analytics to help Essex and Suffolk county councils better target public service initiatives where they are needed most
  • annual programme of events ranging from public debates and lectures to film screenings and exhibitions
  • working with schools - from inspiring interest in science at the annual Big Bang Fair to enhancing knowledge of the Holocaust through its Dora Love Prize competition

Chief Executive Officer of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Dame Ottoline Leyser said: “UKRI values the diverse and varied contributions that our higher education institutions make to society. The Knowledge Exchange Framework, published today by Research England, reflects and celebrates this diversity.”