Trail-blazing Midlands university inward investment pilot receives £0.5m funding boost

Trail-blazing Midlands university inward investment pilot receives £0.5m funding boost

A pioneering Midlands pilot which will help supercharge the UK’s aspiration to become a Science Superpower and level up regions by harnessing the R&D capabilities and assets of Universities has been awarded additional funding.

The Universities as Drivers of Trade and Investment pilot has generated a further £500,000 of funding to enable its expansion and extension over the next year.

The initiative, developed by the Midlands with growing national relevance and international reach, aims to catalyse ideas and action to provide a blueprint for universities, government and local partners to work together to attract greater overseas investment into regional research and development.

The Pilot’s central mission is by leveraging global connections and their anchor role in the local innovation and talent eco-systems, universities can and should be seen by government as a more significant partner in attracting international investment.

The Pilot, hosted by Midlands Innovation, involves 17 universities across the Midlands Enterprise and Midlands Innovation university partnerships. It is also a flagship initiative for the Midlands Engine Partnership’s Global and Investment programme, with the Midlands Engine a core delivery partner and co-funder of the pilot from its inception.

Together with the Department of Levelling-Up, Housing and Communities, the Midlands Engine Partnership has now announced the initiative will receive a further £200,000 funding, which will be matched by in-kind contributions of £300,000 from the universities and other programme partners.

The funding will be used to turn the initial proof-of-concept pilot into a longer-term programme that is embedded within the region and across Whitehall. It will extend its reach into new sectors and markets, with a focus on developing and promoting a sustainable pipeline of FDI into R&D opportunities.

Activities will include:

  • Continuing to strengthen the programme’s relationship with UK Government diplomatic missions in its initial four key international markets; Australia, Germany, Singapore and South Korea.
  • Extending the programme’s priority markets to the US, working with the Science and Innovation Network, the Department for Business and Trade, and regional partners to identify key states and sectors.
  • Extending the ‘Invest in University R&D’ sectoral propositions to include mapping and university R&D prospectuses for two further sectors, including Artificial Intelligence.
  • The development of a formal R&D investment proposition pipeline in partnership with the Department for Business and Trade, fully integrated into the Midlands Investment Portfolio and UK Investment Atlas.
  • Developing a Midlands University Trade and Investment Champions programme.
  • Further developing and advocating for the Midlands SME Export Graduate Placement proposal.
  • Scoping the development of a ‘University Co-location Company’ and concierge service to businesses looking to set-up near universities and science parks.

Since its inception, the Pilot has attracted nearly £600,000 of funding for the region from a variety of different sources including the Department of Science, Innovation and Technology, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and UK Research and Innovation.

It has then leveraged significant co-funding and matched contributions from universities, policy and private sector partners. This has enabled the delivery of a wide portfolio of activity including:

  • a national policy review, in partnership with the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), into how the UK currently attracts inward investment as well as a set of recommendations on how the country’s approach can be improved. Read the report here and accompanying blog series here.
  • in collaboration with local partners, the Department for Business and Trade and the GREAT Campaign, the development of five sector university R&D investment.
  • in partnership with The Data City and MetroDynamics, analysis of the relationship between universities, R&D active companies and ‘clusters’ within the Midlands – identifying three clusters as key inward investment opportunities.
  • deep-dive analysis across four Local Enterprise Partnership areas as to the local priorities for partnership working between universities and local partners.
  • the development of a ‘Midlands SME Export Graduate Placement Programme’ proposal to support regional businesses with international student expertise.

Roger Mendonca, CEO of the Midlands Engine Partnership, said“The Midlands is trail-blazing a way for the UK to attract more funding into its fantastic Research and Innovation eco-system. 

“This is a huge opportunity for the country and the Midlands Engine Partnership is delighted to fund the Universities as Drivers of Trade and Investment Pilot to undertake new and innovative initiatives in the Midlands.  This will provide insight for UK policy makers on the potential of tapping into even greater levels of overseas investment.”

Professor Karen Holford, Chair of Midlands Innovation Board and Chief Executive and Vice-Chancellor of Cranfield University, said: “We are grateful that the Midlands Engine Partnership has provided new funding to extend the reach and opportunities that the Universities as Drivers of Trade and Investment Pilot presents.

“Overseas investment into R&D has largely been attracted into London and the South East, but if the UK is to truly become a Science Superpower, then we need to look to supercharge all UK regions by better harnessing the R&D capabilities across the whole of the country. We believe that the Midlands Pilot will demonstrate that universities with their international reputations and world-leading R&D capabilities can play a more significant and strategic role.”

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