Universities and Industry Collaborate to Drive UK plc Upwards

Simon Kendall
Collaborations between universities and businesses are becoming more intertwined, evolving to meet shifting economic, marketplace and educational needs.

Higher education institutions are at the heart of the UK science and research ecosystem, and crucial to the country's performance in a knowledge-based economy. For both intellectual and fiscal reasons, there has been a significant increase in university-industry cooperation and collaboration across the higher education sector in recent years.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England's 2014-15 Higher Education - Business and Community Interaction survey reports that industry partnerships were worth £4.1bn in 2015, up 6.2 per cent on 2013-14. This is big business for universities, bringing both challenges and benefits.

Building partnerships with business and industry provides an important channel for generating the financial resources universities need to fund further investment. The resulting cutting edge research improves our public services and public policy, and contributes to UK plc’s standing in research and in the global business landscape.

Higher education institutions are at the heart of the UK science and research ecosystem, and crucial to the country's performance in a knowledge-based economy.

Students also benefit from exposure to innovation in product and service development, as well as a thriving culture of entrepreneurship and greater awareness of the challenges of the workplace. Some students will benefit from industry sponsorship during their studies, and employment prospects are enhanced by the early acquaintance with industry.

The drive to increase industry collaboration has brought changing needs for university estates. Partnerships frequently result in new facilities that act as a focal point for business engagement and collaboration, with research buildings, science and enterprise parks, start-up facilities and other bespoke buildings being added to the estate.

New asset-sharing strategies and funding models are emerging, as both parties seek to achieve the best results. Typically universities own the land, and the facilities created may be funded by the commercial partner, jointly funded by the partner and the institution, often with contributions from other bodies such as the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) , Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) or Innovate UK, and/or sub-let by the university to the commercial partner.

Building partnerships with business and industry provides an important channel for generating the financial resources universities need to fund further investment.

Each model has its own pros and cons. Our team at Faithful+Gould helps clients make sense of these, mindful of the need for flexible spaces that combine cost-effectiveness, practicality, resilience, maintenance efficiency, and future potential. Our experience with both higher education institutions and industry enables us to help bridge any cultural gap, meeting the needs of all stakeholders during the pre-contract and post-contract phases.

Faithful+Gould leads projects that make best use of the funds available, helping university clients to structure their investments, select the best design options, develop robust procurement strategies, and deliver buildings that make a positive contribution to any collaborative endeavour. Our Midlands offices are currently working with several local universities and their industrial partners in the pharmaceutical, aeronautical, automotive and energy sectors.

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