New analysis published today reveals a robust resurgence in university-business interactions since the pandemic, according to NCUB’s State of the Relationship report 2023, published today.

The report reveals that the number of university interactions with businesses reached its highest level since the pandemic. Key findings include:

  • During the pandemic, interactions declined by 1.9% but new data for 2021/22 marks the first positive shift since the pandemic;
  • The total number of interactions reached 80,881 in 2021/22, a 5.1% increase on the year from 76,952 in 2020/21;
  • Income from knowledge exchange (KE) activity grew in 2021/22 by 16.1%, or by more than £161m, reaching pre-pandemic levels of £1.2bn.

Dr Joe Marshall, Chief Executive of the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB), said: “We are pleased to reveal new analysis showing collaborations and partnerships between universities and businesses have reached their highest level since the pandemic began. Despite a tumultuous year, fuelled by rising inflation, supply chain issues, skill shortages and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, university-business partnerships remained resilient in 2021/22. Interactions have not only stabilised but are actively regaining momentum following the Covid-19 pandemic, despite the challenging financial climate. In real terms this amounts to a £129m increase from the previous year.”

Marshall continued: “We applaud this Government’s focus on driving economic growth through research and innovation. Research collaboration is key to this and they have rightly recognised the importance of business engagement with innovation institutions. These supportive policies and increased R&D funding have been critical to university-business interaction.”

Marshall concluded: “However the dark days of the pandemic are not yet behind us and now is no time for complacency. With interactions still 9% lower than that before the Covid-19 pandemic more needs to be done to rebuild collaboration to pre-pandemic levels. The Government must double down, and continue to invest in collaboration, research and innovation. Innovation is the silver bullet needed to help fuel our recovery.”

Commenting on the report, Professor Dame Jessica Corner, Executive Chair of Research England, UKRI: said: “The State of the Relationship report 2023 is the tenth edition to be produced by NCUB. Alongside both the Independent Review of University Spin-outs and the Government’s response to it, and NCUB’s own Mobility Taskforce, today’s report, spotlights the crucial lynchpin role of universities in supporting local, regional and national economic growth. All three of these reports taken together highlight the need for a range of different contributions from different universities with different missions, disciplinary mixes and of course different business and private partnerships – and that our universities have strength in performance compared to other countries, notably the USA. Getting this right and employing all these diverse strengths is critical to deliver the goals of the Government’s Science & Technology Framework. We look forward to continuing to work with NCUB to help showcase and evidence how university-business collaborations can help the UK to prosper and thrive”.