Mayors, Ministers and Midlands universities launch £3m campaign to attract global R&D investment and drive economic growth

Today, [21 May 2024] a groundbreaking coalition of seventeen universities from the Midlands launched a new £3m international campaign to attract inward investment into R&D, innovation and science – leveraging their global connections to drive economic growth across their region.

Led by Midlands Innovation and the Midlands Engine Partnership and hosted at Loughborough University, the Invest in UK University R&D – Midlands Campaign has been developed with a range of regional partners including the West Midlands Growth Company, Midlands Enterprise Universities and the East Midlands Freeport.

It was launched at the UK Real Estate, Infrastructure and Investment Forum (UKREIIF), which was attended by nearly 13,000 investors, delegates and developers.

Minister of State for Science, Research and Innovation, Andrew Griffith MP, announced an award of £1.5 million from the UK’s International Science Partnerships Fund (ISPF) to support the campaign over the next two years, which has been matched by universities and regional partners. The Minister said: “The UK is home to world class research hubs and by bringing together the expertise and connections of universities, government and industry, we can bolster our efforts to win international investment into some of the Midlands’ strongest sectors.

Our country’s universities have directly attracted around £4bn of foreign investment into their research since 2015.

Today’s new campaign, supported by £1.5m from the Government’s International Science Partnership Fund, will help bring in more backing for the region’s excellent research.”

Invest in UK university RD - Midlands Campaign - JPEG (002)

An outstanding destination for global investment

The campaign will see universities across the Midlands joining forces to create a more ambitious offer to global investors. It will showcase five sectors where the Midlands is world-renowned for the strength of its research and innovation. They will also leverage their international alumni, industry and university connections in six markets (Australia, Germany, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and the USA) to engage investors and raise the profile of the Midlands.

Aligning with the priorities of the new West and East Midlands Mayors and other local leaders, it will help promote the region as an outstanding destination for global investment. It will support efforts from government and local growth agencies to secure game-changing funding for major regeneration projects across the region that have universities as a core partner. These include sites within both West and East Midlands Investment Zones.

The campaign will also work closely with Midlands Mindforge, an independent patient capital investment company, established by the eight research intensive universities in the Midlands Innovation partnership. Midlands Mindforge aims to deploy £250m to “invest with impact”, founding and scaling transformational science backed companies in sectors such as Clean Technologies, AI & Computational Science, Life Sciences & Health Tech. It will create highly skilled jobs in the Midlands and support the UK’s ambition to become a science and technology superpower.

Welcoming the announcement of the Campaign at UKREIIF, the Minister for Investment, Lord Dominic Johnson said: “Our unrivalled universities are attracting the world’s brightest minds to the UK, boosting innovation and helping to drive record levels of overseas investment into our country.

This has helped some of our world-leading sectors in life sciences, AI, nuclear and others reach new heights and put the UK on the way to becoming a science and technology superpower.

With support from the Office for Investment, the wider department has worked closely with Midlands Mindforge to help drive efforts to attract significant investment into the Midlands’ economy.”

The campaign is also being supported by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the UK’s Global Science and Innovation Network (SIN), which is jointly funded by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).

Professor Christopher Smith, Executive Chair of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and International Champion for the UKRI whose will oversee the Campaign said: “This campaign and the accompanying University Investment Prospectuses – the first of their kind in the UK – brilliantly showcase the outstanding opportunity for international business and investors to come to the Midlands. There they will immediately benefit from access to the eco-system of innovation, collaboration and world-class facilities, talent and technology that emanate from our great universities. I am particularly pleased to see the focus on the creative industries, which will deliver opportunities to invest in UK university R&D to markets across the world, and bring benefit back to the UK, including here in the Midlands.”

Professor Julia Sutcliffe, Chief Scientific Adviser at the Department for Business and Trade, who will Chair the campaign’s Advisory Group, addressed over 300 investors and partners at the Midlands Engine Reception at UKREIIF, where she said: “By supporting inward investment into science, technology and innovation, the Department for Business and Trade is key to delivering the Government’s ambition for the UK to become a Science and Technology Superpower by 2030. This collaboration from the Midlands is a great example of how places, universities and the public sector can come together to drive greater investment into R&D across the regions.”

This most recent award follows-on from the Universities as Drivers of Trade and Investment’ Pilot, led by Midlands Innovation, Midlands Engine Partnership and Midlands Enterprise Universities, with support from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. The programme helped lay the groundwork for the campaign by demonstrating the enormous potential universities have to play a much greater role in driving overseas trade and investment into UK regional R&D.

Alex Favier, Programme Director at Midlands Innovation will lead the campaign and said: “We are thrilled to have secured Government support for this trailblazing Campaign. Through our new Invest Universities Midlands team, we will be able to work with UK Embassies around the world, national government and regional partners such as the West Midlands Growth Company to provide a ‘concierge service’ for investors into our universities. Individually our universities all have outstanding innovation, talent, and state-of-the-art R&D facilities. But together, our collaboration and connections become a distinct competitive advantage for any investor seeking a partnership with a Midlands university.”

Midlands Engine Partnership Chairman, Sir John Peace, said: “This funding will provide a platform for us to showcase the unique strengths of the Midlands and position our region on the global investment map. This programme is a perfect example of how the power of partnership between the Midlands Engine and our fantastic universities is helping extend the global reach of our region”.

The campaign also has the backing of both the East and West Midlands Mayors. Richard Parker, Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), said: “Universities have a significant role to play in delivering inclusive economic growth for our residents and places. This initiative is a great example of how they are leveraging their global reputation and links to attract investment and jobs in to communities to support the West Midlands Investment Zone, the West Midlands Innovation Accelerator, and the delivery of the West Midlands International Strategy. I look forward to working with university leaders to promote the West Midlands and wider Midlands on the global stage.”

While East Midlands Mayor, Claire Ward, said: “Attracting national and international investment to our region – and with it, more high-skilled jobs to help strengthen our regional economy – is one of my key priorities as Mayor, and why I look forward to supporting this vital campaign.”


Notes to Editors:

International Science Partnerships Fund (ISPF)

The ISPF is designed to enable potential and foster prosperity. It supports UK researchers and innovators to work with international partners on some of the most pressing themes of our time. The government announced an initial £119 million for phase one of ISPF which will allow UK scientists and innovators to collaborate with international partners on multidisciplinary projects.


UKREiiF stands for UK real estate investment and infrastructure forum. UKREiiF connects people, places and businesses to accelerate and unlock sustainable, inclusive and transformational investment. This 3-day event brings together the public sector – with every core UK city and region involved – alongside Government, investors, funders, developers, housebuilders and more.



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