Essex calls for PM to back University Enterprise Zones

  • Date

    Tue 1 Nov 22

Professor Chris Greer

Essex has backed calls for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to supercharge universities as the new engines of economic growth.

Senior research leaders have welcomed the drive to boost University Enterprise Zones that will develop future sector leaders and create cutting-edge innovations.

The call comes as the ‘Our universities: generating growth and opportunity’ report, was published by Universities UK.

It explores ways in which universities can contribute to economic growth, and makes several recommendations such as establishing collaborative hubs for skills development, building on the Help to Grow scheme, and the rapid expansion of University Enterprise Zones (UEZ).

Since launching in 2019 Essex’s UEZ has created 337 jobs, raised nearly £20m in investment, supported 355 businesses and connected 60 innovators with investors.

Professor Chris Greer, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Research, said: “The UEZ at the University of Essex has transformed our work with business by unlocking millions of pounds of angel investment for innovative companies, delivering in-depth support and advice for 100s of companies looking to scale-up, making our Colchester Campus an even stronger hub for start-ups and backing our student entrepreneurs.

“We hope we can be an inspiration for many other universities across the country and look forward to building on our successes in the coming years.”

The report highlights the importance of investment in foundational research and research infrastructure which is crucial in developing the innovative products and services that drive new businesses and good jobs, in turn leading to economic growth.

It is currently estimated that over the next five years UK universities will help form 21,500 new businesses and provide over £11.6 billion of support and services to small enterprises, businesses and not-for-profits.

This includes specialist advice, training, access to the latest facilities and equipment to develop innovative products and conducting bespoke research projects.

A priority for the UK government is to stimulate economic growth.

The recommendations made in the new report highlight how well-placed and crucial universities are to supporting growth.

Professor Steve West CBE, President of Universities UK and Vice-Chancellor of UWE Bristol, said:  “Given the gloomy economic outlook and the difficult global situation, we need ambitious and bold action to fire up growth. It is more important than ever that universities can support businesses and charities through their research, innovation, and enterprise, to create a healthier, wealthier, and fairer Britain.”

“Research shows that investment in the higher education sector creates more jobs per pound than equivalent investment in construction, the manufacture of computers and electronics or the public administration sector.”

Skilled Education leads the online aspect of the government’s Help to Grow scheme.

Rajay Naik, the chief executive of Skilled Education, said: “The Government’s decision to engage over 50 UK universities to deliver face-to-face learning for Help to Grow underscores the central role of British universities in upskilling the nation.

“We have an immense skills gap and higher education working in partnership with government and the private sector is a central part of how we must address it.”