A large number of students in the United Kingdom are creating their own startups with help from universities such as Kingston University near London. UK universities are also stepping up their cooperation with companies both large and small as the value of collaborative research is increasingly recognised.

Collaboration between Universities, Startups and Larger Firms Bearing Fruit in UK

In the United Kingdom, data for the academic year 2011-2012 shows a steady rise in knowledge exchange between higher education establishments and private sector companies, public sector institutions and service organisations. The total value of the service which UK universities are providing to the economy increased by 4%, from £3.3 billion in 2010-2011 to £3.4 billion in 2011-2012, according to a newly-published report entitled Higher Education – Business and Community Interaction Survey: 2011-2012. The British Prime Minister's enterprise advisor, Lord Young of Graffham, also recently underlined the major role that British universities have played in helping startups to blossom. He called on the government to broaden its assisted-finance initiatives for new companies and look for new ways of encouraging fresh graduates wishing to set up as entrepreneurs.

Collaboration between academe and businesses

The report reveals that UK universities contributed £3.4 billion to the economy in 2011-2012 through services to business, including both commercialisation of new knowledge and delivery of professional training and consultancy. In addition, universities’ engagement with large businesses increased by about 5% overall, including a notable rise (6%) in contract research income from £343 million in 2010-2011 to £365 million in 2011-2012. Public and tertiary-sector organisations also increased their engagement with universities (by 5% overall), in particular for research, consultancy, training and access to intellectual property. The high number of organisations choosing to work in partnership with the higher education sector demonstrates that direct engagement in collaborative research is regarded as particularly valuable in stimulating new ideas and spurring new approaches.

Kingston University tops the table for graduate startups

Meanwhile Kingston University is leading the way on the startup front, helping to create the most graduate startup companies of any UK higher education institution for the fourth year running, with a total of 544 startups to its credit. Vice-Chancellor Professor Julius Weinberg claims that this accolade is well deserved as “Kingston University has long been a driving force in fostering innovation […] exactly what the country needs in a time of recession.” Neomi Bennett, a former Kingston nursing graduate who launched her startup product, Neoslip, a life-saving aid for people with mobility problems, is a shining example of the kind of support Kingston provides to its alumni. The university has helped her to sell her invention all over the world. She admits she could not have done it all alone and stresses that support from mentors at Kingston University had played a crucial role in turning her invention into a thriving business.


By Kathleen Comte