Universities’ income from business grows

New report shows the sector is making the most of opportunities to collaborate and compete with industry, the public sector and charities. Hannah Fearn reports

June 14, 2010

University staff are increasingly establishing successful start-up enterprises that have long-term potential, according to a survey on the money that universities receive from business.

The Higher Education – Business and Community Interaction Survey, published today by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, provided clear evidence that enterprises set up by academics and graduates are growing in importance as a source of income for institutions.

The number of new businesses that were not based on intellectual property established by university staff increased by 29 per cent from 2007-08 to 2008-09 and those founded by graduates grew by 4 per cent.

The survey also shows that these new businesses are prospering, with the number operating for at least three years increasing by more than a quarter.

Headline figures from the study, some of which were released earlier this year, show that universities also raised £56 million from intellectual property rights in 2008-09, while spin-off companies partly owned by universities generated £548 million.

In addition, contract research by universities grew by 12 per cent, totalling £938 million in 2008-09, and income from collaborative research grew by 5 per cent to £732 million.

Published to mark the beginning of Universities Week, the survey confirms that public and third sector spending on universities also increased over the period.

The value of collaborative research with those sectors increased by 5 per cent to £730 million and the value of contract research by 12 per cent to £937 million.

Income from regeneration programmes fell from about £238 million in 2007-08 to £172 million in 2008-09, but university work in the community remained strong, with more than 750,000 people attending free public lectures hosted by universities.

“The HE-BCI growth of around 5.5 per cent in [universities’] total income demonstrates impressive performance in difficult conditions, and may suggest that they have been successful in deploying their knowledge and expertise effectively to respond flexibly to challenges and opportunities presented,” the report says.

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, said the figures were an “astonishing” demonstration of the role universities play in society and the economy.


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