With a proven record of successfully stimulating economic growth, nurturing innovation and supporting new business, our universities can unlock barriers and deliver on Britain’s potential. The World Economic Forum has, once again, ranked the UK number one in Europe for business-university collaboration in its 2020 competitiveness ranking.

High-growth businesses are attracted to communities where the Russell Group’s research-intensive universities are based because they are more able to easily recruit highly skilled graduates and tap into the fresh ideas that are nurtured in our universities.

While major collaborations with companies such as GSK often get the headlines, Russell Group universities are also focused on developing the next generation of high growth companies. Many of these will be vital for the UK’s economic renewal and regrowth after the economic shock of Covid-19.

  • 9 out of 10 university spin-outs which received private investment between 2011 and 2015 survived into 2018. Compared to fewer than 1 in 2 new enterprises surviving over a five-year period in the wider start-up environment [1]
  • Founded in 1990, ARM holdings – a Cambridge University spin-out – was acquired by Japan’s Softbank for £24 billion in 2016.
  • Six spin-outs from the University of Leeds are currently listed on AIM, with a combined value in excess of £500m; and the Nexus initiative at Leeds aims to help businesses de-risk innovation and provide a clear route to access talent and research at the university

The Economic Impact of Russell Group Universities (London Economics)

London Economics were commissioned by the Russell Group to undertake an analysis of the economic contribution of their 24 members universities to the UK economy in 2015-16. 

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Smart graduates are driving the smart economy 

High-growth businesses need smart graduates with the high-level skills and creative thinking that spurs productivity. Building on the people and knowledge in and around campus, our universities help incubate start-ups, mentor entrepreneurs, and support innovative ventures.

  • The University of Bristol’s enterprise partnership with the universities of Bath, Bristol, Exeter, Southampton, and Surrey works with local councils to grow technology start-ups. It currently supports 80 ventures and has raised more than £1.8bn of investment and created £8.6 billion of economic impact to date – a figure which is set to rise to nearly £27 billion by 2030.
  • Queen’s University Belfast has supported the creation of nearly 100 technology start-ups, adding 2700 jobs to the regional economy. An additional 1800 roles have been created via a cutting-edge cybersecurity cluster based around Queen’s Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology (ECIT), and three companies created from QUB’s research are now listed on the London Stock Exchange.

Further investment by the Government in this area, through a substantial increase in the Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF), would boost smart businesses across the country. 

Regional engines for the economy

Our universities are often the largest employer in their cities, working with councils to level up the economy through arts, science and R&D talent-led growth. The focus of Russell Group universities on building the knowledge economy through high-quality teaching and learning will deliver highly skilled graduates who are able to use their skills to help transform areas like social care and mental health, and boost industries like construction and manufacturing that will be essential to the economic recovery in every nation and region of the UK. 

Dynamic, innovative universities like ours create jobs right across their regions. They have also helped to drive City Deals, regional health partnerships and major investments across the UK. In 2016, our universities supported more than 200,000 full-time equivalent jobs through direct employment, expenditure, staff and students, in towns and cities outside of London.

Together, this generates around £87 billion for the UK economy every year through research, teaching, exports, local buying power and other activities – and we want to do even more.

More about our universities' role in levelling up opportunity and investment across the UK:

Levelling up across the country


[1] Anderson Law University Spinouts report – April 2018

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