Speaking at the Higher Education Policy Institute spring conference, David Willetts said the projects would help create more than 500 new companies and 3,000 jobs, while contributing more than £3 billion to the UK’s economy.
The money, allocated from the Higher Education Funding Council for England’s Catalyst Fund, will support projects that focus on a number of areas identified as a priority by the Technology Strategy Board at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. These areas include advanced manufacturing, energy, digital and creative, big data, and space.
“Universities and colleges are vital to the UK’s economy,” Mr Willetts said. “This extra £50 million will harness the potential for growth across the regions, focus on our world-class industrial sectors, and create a skilled workforce for the future. It will support cutting-edge innovation and research projects and keep us ahead in the global race.”
The projects include a University of Nottingham scheme to find new applications for satellite technologies; a Lancaster University project researching how the reputation of UK higher education institutions can help exports in industrial sectors; and work at Sheffield Hallam University which aims to develop a National Centre of Excellence for Food Engineering.
Alan Langlands, Hefce chief executive, said: “This portfolio of projects shows the ingenuity, determination and diversity of the higher education sector’s response to supporting economic growth.”
He said the projects would provide “a foundation for the long-term competitiveness of the UK economy”, and promote economic resilience through innovation. “Critically, they also support the development of the next generation of entrepreneurs,” he added.
The announcement comes a day after BIS revealed that the overall 2013-14 budget for the Technology Strategy Board will be boosted to £440 million. The board works across business, academia and government to help companies to commercialise their ideas.