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New Chief Executive of Innovate UK meets with Midlands Innovation Board

Vice-Chancellors from the Midlands top research-intensive universities have met with Mr Indro Mukerjee, the new Chief Executive of Innovate UK, to discuss the region’s academic strength in business-driven Research and Development (R&D).

Midlands Innovation (MI) undertakes 70% of all of Research & Development (R&D) undertaken by higher education institutions in the region and is a collaborative research partnership that has long-established research links with industry. 

Collectively Midlands Innovation institutions deliver an economic impact of more than £10 billion to the UK economy and in the recent national Knowledge Exchange rankings of 140 UK universities, all partners scored highly for the research they undertake in partnership, and the majority of MI members were in the top 10% for the work they undertake to support local growth and regeneration, or the work they undertake with business.

The meeting was an opportunity for Midlands Innovation Board to discuss the region’s ability to undertake innovative R&D to support the country’s drive to create jobs, support a green economic recovery, to level-up the Midlands, and support the Government’s aspiration of investing 2.4% of GDP in R&D.

Midlands Innovation’s flagship Innovate UK-funded programme is the Energy Research Accelerator (ERA) – the UK’s largest green energy research partnership. For every pound of research funding (£60m) it received from Innovate UK, it attracted double that in private sector investment (£120m), and has seen significant success and economic impact, the latter amounting to a 9:1 return on the original Innovate investment.

Mr Mukerjee was interested to hear about the success of the Energy Research Accelerator which is a partnership of the eight Midlands Innovation universities and British Geological Survey. ERA partners are engaged with over 500 energy-related businesses, which utilise 23 Innovate UK-funded facilities. It has an Industrial Advisory Board comprising significant figures from the energy sector and is an example of place-based innovation – academic excellence supporting the region’s energy sector– the UK’s largest region for energy-related employment.

As well as discussing ERA with Mr Mukerjee, it was also an opportunity to highlight Midlands Innovation Health (MI Health) which brings together the university’s health and medical schools. The Midlands is home to the second-largest clinical trials cluster in Europe and has the UK’s largest Med Tech sector - worth £1.6 billion to the UK economy and employing nearly 24,000 people.  MI Health is working with academic, business, and clinical partners across the Midlands to strengthen the region’s health and life science sector.

Chair of Midlands Innovation and Vice-Chancellor of Keele University, Professor Trevor McMillan, said: “I am delighted that myself and the Midlands Innovation Board were able to meet with Mr Mukerjee and to hear first-hand his priorities for Innovate UK.

“Prior to the pandemic the Midlands had the fastest growing regional economy outside of the South East, an economy comparable to Denmark and a population comparable to Scotland, but independent analysis has also shown that the region is undercapitalised.

“As a partnership, we deliver more business patents per pound of research funding than any other UK university alliance and we believe we, together with the region’s businesses, can play an integral part in delivering the nation’s research and innovation aspirations.”