Good news… the government’s response to Sir Andrew Witty’s Review endorses its direction of travel and looks to recognise more explicitly the role of universities as anchor institutions driving social prosperity and economic growth.
In October, I wrote about Sir Andrew Witty’s Review of Universities & Growth which reflected the extraordinary potential of universities to enhance economic growth, driving innovation, creating jobs and more. I was delighted to contribute to the Witty Review as an Expert Adviser given Plymouth University’s enterprise mission. Our focus on helping to create opportunity in the South West and connect globally through our research and teaching offers a real case study of success. I think a connected university can catalyse change in society, enabling talent to express itself and helping to translate ideas and inventions into jobs and growth that can be sustained. The new business landscape, with Local Enterprise Partnerships and growth driven by social enterprise, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) and indeed more start-ups and entrepreneurs is a landscape full of opportunities for our universities.
The Government’s response to the Witty Review signals a long-term commitment to support universities in their third mission to deliver economic growth, alongside world class teaching and research. Universities are encouraged to play an active and pivotal role in their local ‘growth hubs’, supporting SMEs and strengthening partnerships with business and the community. There’s a focus on research and technology and better connecting problem owners in industry with problem solvers in universities through the funding bodies. This bodes well for our world class research and focus on translating research with impact.
The Witty Review and the Government’s response sit well with Plymouth University’s mission, transforming lives through education and research through the lens of enterprise. Nice to see folk catch up with us! We’ve been at this stuff for years, our business incubation facilities here on campus – Formation Zone – three innovation centres in Cornwall, and running Plymouth Science Park mean that our students and staff can express their creativity and also be inspired to create solutions for real world problems. In January 2014, we were key signatory to the South West Peninsula City Deal, working with the Heart of the South West LEP, the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LEP, as well as Plymouth City Council, on a £300 million investment project to drive the region’s marine and advanced manufacturing sectors, creating over 9,000 jobs. Our own Growth Acceleration and Investment Network (GAIN) was referred to by Witty as an example of a successful growth hub. We have used GAIN to channel funding from the Government’s Regional Growth Fund (RGF), investing over £8m to date in projects and programmes which create economic growth and sustainable development. So far this has resulted in 180 new jobs in the region, with a further 340 estimated. The City Deal has led to the expansion of GAIN and another round of Regional Growth Funding which will create 437 jobs from a fund of £3.2 million in the GAIN Growth Fund+.
So, the benefits of a university embracing its third mission and embedding enterprise into its core teaching and research are now more widely recognised and indeed accepted as a path to excellence. And we’re standing by to see funding policy instruments recognise this direction. Reasons to be cheerful, one, two, three!