Open Doors: universities open for business?

Today we are launching Open Doors, a campaign to encourage more businesses to experience the benefits of collaborating with their local university. As part of this we have launched a new interactive map making it easier of businesses to find out how they can work with their local university.

Small businesses are the life blood of our economy. They drive regional and national growth and are helping to develop the UK workforce. Improving competitiveness, thinking of new, creative approaches and high-level skills have always been key to business success and growth. At a time when so much is changing, for students, institutions and on a larger scale, the way we work and do business, it is so important that we are ambitious to make the most of the positive outcomes that stem from successful collaboration between universities and business: stronger research, job-ready and entrepreneurial graduates, better businesses and communities, and economic growth.

With SMEs accounting for 99% of all UK businesses, they are critical to our economic wellbeing and have shown repeatedly to be engines of growth and the principle source of new employment.

Here are a few facts for you – just 15% of all growth comes from a change in inputs, that is to your workforce or materials. However, 85% of all growth stems from innovation. Innovation was the defining feature of the fastest growing 7% of businesses between 2002-08, helping generate half of all new jobs between this time. This shows us that as well as investing in a skilled and creative workforce, in order for businesses to thrive, innovation must be central to any businesses future.

So what can SMEs do to ensure they reach their potential? As the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Vince Cable has said, “the UK has renowned universities and research institutes and a proud record of invention – from the creation of life-saving medicines to the development of the internet.” Universities are key to unlocking hidden potential. There are some great examples on the Open Doors website that demonstrate the benefits of businesses working in collaboration with universities.

Universities working with business makes sense. Not just for the economy but for the future of talent, research and innovation in the UK. This is why we are launching Open Doors, a month of activity in which people from across the university sector, business and anyone with an interest in this area can discuss this collaboration in greater depth and explore ways of improving its effectiveness. We are excited to be launching our new Open Doors website, which includes a new interactive map to help businesses find their nearest Alliance university business centre. We hope this will be a useful tool in encouraging more businesses to make the link with their local university and experience the benefits that come from successful collaboration.

Universities and SME are already playing a huge role in the economic recovery, however together they can both achieve even more.
Libby Hackett
Director – University Alliance



Further reading