Interactions between universities and the economy increased in volume by 10 per cent between 2012-13 and 2013-14, according to a new survey.
The Higher Education Funding Council for England’s Higher Education - Business and Community Interaction survey reveals that such partnerships were worth £3.9 billion last year, up from £3.6 billion in 2012-13.
Meanwhile, graduates set up almost a third more enterprises last year than in the preceding one.
The annual HE-BCI survey looks at the exchange of knowledge between universities and the wider world. It collects financial data and information on outputs.
The 2013-14 report finds that the investment by large businesses in universities has increased by around 5 per cent to £770 million in 2013-14. Institutional income from collaborative research, consultancy, facilities and intellectual property rights also increased by more than 10 per cent over the period studied.
Graduates set up more than 4,600 new businesses in 2013-14, a 31 per cent increase on the number in 2012-13.
The data suggests that the universities in the UK outperform those in the US and Japan in terms of the proportion of industry-funded research and income from spin-off equity.
Madeleine Atkins, chief executive of Hefce, said: “Organisations of all kinds are increasing their investment in university research and innovation, and graduates are increasingly starting their own businesses. This all suggests a more confident economy and a university sector fully engaged.”
She added that this is important as the nation faces a productivity gap and “universities have a key part to play in filling it”.
“The role of universities as ‘anchors’ in their localities is also vital to address long-standing disparities in regional and local productivity across the country,” Professor Atkins said.
Universities and science minister Jo Johnson said: “Our universities are successfully engaging with businesses and the returns from collaborations are now greater than ever before. We must continue to build on this progress so that higher education institutions can make an even bigger contribution to the economy and productivity in the future.”