2 October 2013 10:26

Lancaster University has welcomed calls made by the head of the UK’s biggest business lobbying group for greater research links between universities and SMEs.

In a recent interview John Cridland, Director General of the CBI, called for universities to do more to reach out to work with SMEs and that he would like to see more research collaborations with SMEs and universities.

These comments have been welcomed by Lancaster University, which has a strong track-record of working with companies of this size and is continually looking to forge new research links with SMEs in the North West, and beyond.

Lancaster University has worked with more than 5,000 companies since 1999, it has seen more than 250 new businesses and more than 4,000 new jobs created.

Professor Andrew Atherton, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Lancaster said:  “Universities are uniquely positioned to help small and medium-sized businesses to innovate and grow, and in turn provide growth and employment in the economy.

“We recognise and welcome the specific focus the CBI are highlighting in term of long-term research-focused collaborations between SMEs and universities such at Lancaster, in addition to accessing training and consultancy advice such as the outstanding LEAD programme developed by the Lancaster University Management School.

“Over the last decade and more Lancaster University has focused heavily on developing novel models of collaborative research with traditional hard-to-reach SMEs, including PhD programmes underpinning new product development for major global markets.

“We are continually looking to develop innovative methods of engaging with UK SMEs. Our future strategy aims to enable our SME partners to capitalise on our global reach as a world-class university.

“We hope that SMEs take note of Mr Cridland’s comments and approach universities to see how we can help them to grow and positively impact the wider economy. 

Lancaster University Management School also works closely with hundreds of SMEs to improve leadership skills and is one of the leading academic institutions in the UK for the number of SMEs it works with. It does this in a variety of ways, for example a recent report has shown that the Lancaster University Management School’s Leading Enterprise and Development (LEAD) programme has increased the productivity and sales of 250 local companies and LEAD is also boosting the performance of SMEs in other areas of the UK after being rolled out in London and South Wales.

In an independent evaluation, alumni of the LEAD programme reported post-programme mean annual turnover growth rates of 13.8%, employment growth of 16.8%, with 70% reporting profit increase, and 65% reporting productivity increase. Participants collectively employ an additional 3,315 staff each year. Evaluation data show that approximately 68% of sales growth is attributed to the programme by survey respondents.

Lancaster  continually works with businesses on collaborative research projects across wide-ranging sectors including advanced manufacturing, cyber-security, data modelling, information and communication technologies and environmental sciences.

Lancaster, the University of Liverpool and commercialisation consultancy Inventya Limited are driving forward eco-innovation in the region by linking 50 small and medium sized companies with 50 specially recruited PhD students.

The Centre for Global Eco-Innovation is part financed by the European Regional Development Fund and helps North West companies reach global markets and develop new products and services designed to protect the environment.

Live projects include:

  • technology to reduce pollution from aircraft de-icer
  • novel solutions to crop pest control
  • new methods of analysing pharmaceutical products in water

The centre, which is the only one of its kind in Europe, has also already helped ten manufacturing businesses apply for nearly £1M launchpad funding and helped four businesses gain a combined investment of £3M.

In addition, more than 100 businesses have used co-location, and start-up ‘incubation’, facilities in the University’s InfoLab21, and the Lancaster Environment Centre, giving close access to teams of academics, researchers and graduates.

For more information about how Lancaster University works with businesses visit http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/business/ and for more information on the co-location facilities visit http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/sci-tech/business/working_in_partnership/co-location.php

The John Cridland comment was taken from an interview with The Guardian, which can be found here: http://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/2013/sep/02/john-cridland-universities-economic-growth