< Back to News

New report: MI universities key to the region’s Innovation businesses

A new report tracking business investment opportunities in the Midlands highlights a record year for investment, and thanks to MI universities, opportunities for innovation investment is expected to increase.

The report, Investment Opportunities in the Midlands, by Beauhurst, which tracks the UK’s high-growth companies and is utilised by some of the UK’s biggest investment banks, shows that the Midlands is the home to 11% of the UK’s high growth businesses, but only secured 5% of the £13.5 billion invested in private UK businesses last year, which the report’s authors suggest may mean the region is undercapitalised, making it an attractive location for investors.

Henry Whorwood, Head of Research and Consultancy at Beauhurst which produces reports and research used by investors, financial services institutions, government departments and think tanks, to understand the innovation landscape and help determine policy, said: “With a population of more than 11m and an economic output of £115 billion, the Midlands holds a weighty role in the UK economy.” He continues “The report shows the future is bright for high-growth businesses in the Midlands and those looking to invest in them.”

The Beauhurst report was launched to a virtual audience of some of the UK’s top investors, Dr Helen Turner, Director of Midlands Innovation, who spoke at the launch, reflects in a blog why research MI and its eight academic partners are undertaking are an attractive commercial proposition for investors.

The Midlands is the fastest growing economy outside of London and the South East. It has an economy comparable to the size of Denmark and population comparable to Scotland. It has a worldwide reputation in industrial sectors, is home to the largest number of medical and device technologies in any UK region, but as the Beauhurst report highlights, in comparison to the London and the South East, the region is under-invested.

The Midlands has a number of large organisations that collaborate with Midlands Innovation’s eight partners on cutting-edge research and commercialisation projects, as highlighted in the report, demonstrating that the region’s most research-intensive universities are integral to some of the UK’s largest companies.

Despite the COVID pandemic, 2020 saw a record £665 million invested in Midlands-based companies, with the largest single investment (£200 million) secured from overseas investment by fitness apparel brand Gymshark, founded by Ben Francis, former student of MI partner Aston University. Gymshark is a unicorn company – a start-up with a billion-dollar valuation.

Henry Whorwood, Head of Research and Consultancy at Beauhurst, said: “If investment is a measure of success of a region’s high-growth ecosystem, then spinouts and innovation are a measure of its promise. Providing the opportunity to commercialise university research and academics’ novel technologies and systems, spinouts represent a promising asset class of investors.”

The report highlights that of 159 university spinout companies established by universities in the region between 2011 – 2020, 132 were created by academics of MI partners. Henry Whorwood, continued: “with MICRA empowering ambitious companies and the wider ecosystem, unifying research with midlands industry, opportunities for investment in innovation look set to increase.”

Professor Trevor McMillan, Chair of Midlands Innovation and Vice-Chancellor of Keele University, who addressed investors at the Beauhurst report launch, said: “The Midlands Innovation partnership are integral part of this ecosystem, and their substantial contribution to the innovation pipeline begins with research. Much of their work is conducted in partnership with industry, and so has a direct commercial destination, but the outcomes of ‘blue sky’ research taking place in their centres of excellence will inform the world we love in for many years to come.”

Collectively MI 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.

Professor McMillan, continued: “The concrete, reportable outputs from Midlands Innovation universities are impressive. Between them, they generate more patents per pound of research funding than any other university group.”

Midlands Innovation is a collaborative partnership of the region’s top eight research-intensive universities. These are; Aston, Birmingham, Cranfield, Keele, Leicester, Loughborough, Nottingham and Warwick. 

The full Beauhurst Investment Opportunities in the Midlands report can be downloaded here