Press release

Universities and business to build local growth opportunities

A review to boost growth opportunities for universities and businesses has been launched by Universities and Science Minister David Willetts

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


The independent review will be led by Sir Andrew Witty, CEO of GlaxoSmithKline and Chancellor of the University of Nottingham. It will offer practical steps for building relationships between universities, local businesses and local business bodies, including Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs).

Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said:

A strong relationship between businesses and universities can provide real growth opportunities in local areas. By forging links and sharing best practice, an efficient and practical partnership will help to boost the economy, benefiting both businesses and institutions.

It is critical to the government’s industrial strategy that universities play a full role in driving growth at a local level and then taking it on to a national and global scale. I look forward to reading the report produced by Sir Andrew Witty and am sure that he will highlight some positive suggestions on developing new ways of working to boost business and growth.

The review will take into account recent developments including the government’s response to Lord Heseltine’s report ‘No Stone Unturned’, the industrial strategy and the approach to EU structural funds, including ‘smart specialisation’.

Sir Andrew Witty said:

I am thoroughly looking forward to leading this review to report on how universities can best drive forward growth in their areas.

I believe it is vitally important that the world leading capabilities in our universities and research base are at the heart of both the industrial strategy and local growth strategies that recognise and build on areas of local strength.

A full set of terms of reference have now been set out to build the review around so that practical recommendations can be made. The review will explore the range of ways that universities contribute to their local economies and identify where we have world leading capabilities in our research base that can underpin the sectors and technologies of the industrial strategy.

Sir Andrew will also consider the diverse contributions that universities bring to local economies as providers of skills, major employers, providers in local supply chains, facilitators bringing people together and facilitators of innovation working with businesses of all sizes including SMEs. Sir Andrew will examine whether universities are being as effective as possible in this respect too, building on Sir Tim Wilson’s recent report on business and university collaboration.

The findings will also help to inform LEP strategic plans and EU investment plans. Sir Andrew Witty will report back to the government later this year with his recommendations.

Notes to editors

  1. Sir Andrew Witty is the CEO of GlaxoSmithKline and Chancellor of the University of Nottingham. He has been chosen to lead this independent review and is due to report back to the Business Secretary and the Economics Affairs Cabinet Committee later this year.

  2. The review will build on the Wilson Review of business-university collaboration which was published in February 2012.

  3. The main focus of the review and its recommendations will be on England. However there may be useful lessons to be drawn from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and, indeed, wider afield. The review team will engage with the governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

  4. The Wilson Review of Business-University Collaboration included a chapter on Universities in their local communities: enabling economic growth. A key finding was that LEPs have a role to play in local economic growth.

  5. Since the Wilson Review, the government has further developed its approach to industrial strategy, emphasising the importance of partnership working between government and industry with an initial focus on 11 sectors and eight technologies in with Britain has the potential to be globally competitive.

  6. On 18 March 2013, government announced that LEPs are being tasked with taking on a much greater role in driving economic development. Specifically, they will develop multi-annual strategic plans for their area and will have access to greater resources and levers decentralised from Whitehall. A majority of the EU structural funds for England in 2014-20 will be nominally allocated to LEPs, who will develop EU investment plans as part of their overarching strategic plan. The plans will have to address the key EU funding priorities, a major one of which is innovation, through the lens of an EU-wide approach to ‘smart specialisation’.

  7. The government’s economic policy objective is to achieve ‘strong, sustainable and balanced growth that is more evenly shared across the country and between industries.’ It set four ambitions in the ‘Plan for Growth’ (PDF 1.7MB), published at Budget 2011:

    • To create the most competitive tax system in the G20
    • To make the UK the best place in Europe to start, finance and grow a business
    • To encourage investment and exports as a route to a more balanced economy
    • To create a more educated workforce that is the most flexible in Europe. Work is underway across government to achieve these ambitions, including progress on more than 250 measures as part of the Growth Review. Developing an Industrial Strategy gives new impetus to this work by providing businesses, investors and the public with more clarity about the long-term direction in which the government wants the economy to travel.
Published 8 April 2013