Big gains for university spin-offs, survey shows

Graduate start-ups also show employment and turnover growth, although fewer are being founded

April 8, 2016
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University spin-off companies and graduate start-ups had a larger turnover and employed more people in the past academic year despite slower economic growth.

Figures for 2014-15 from the annual HE Business and Community Interaction Survey show that the combined turnover of all spin-offs with some university ownership topped £1 billion, rising about £130 million since 2013-14.

They employed 12,480 people, a gain of more than 1,000 over the previous year.

Meanwhile the turnover of graduate start-ups increased from £475 million to nearly £650 million. They employed close to 21,000 people, up from about 18,500 the previous year.

The data show that graduate start-ups are much more labour-intensive – overall they employ more people than spin-offs with some university ownership, but they have a much lower combined turnover.

The results also show that graduate start-ups seem to be getting far more external investment. In 2013-14, spin-off companies received the vast bulk of investment, while graduate-founded companies received just £74 million.

But in the past academic year graduate start-ups received more than £300 million of investment.

Growth in overall employment, turnover and investment comes despite the fact that GDP growth in the UK was slightly more sluggish in 2014-15 than it was in 2013-14.

However, there was one notable downward trend from the survey: the number of new graduate start-ups fell from 4,581 to 4,160.

Universities also made marginally more money from “business and community interactions”, such as publicly funded collaborative research, contract work, consultancy and training courses.

In February, a major survey showed that fewer academics had commercialised their research in 2012-15 compared with 2005-08, with the recession, pressures of the 2014 research excellence framework and bureaucracy blamed for the drop.

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