This insight was first published as part of NCUB’s State of the Relationship 2021 Report. Read the report in full here.

The critical importance of innovation ecosystems.

Universities and their innovation communities play a vital role in an innovation ecosystem (IE), acting as a magnet to attract the entrepreneurs, companies, and investors, which will generate a beneficial economic and societal impact – locally, nationally, and internationally. A powerful catalyst for collaboration, they bring together the brightest minds and most inspiring business concepts. The benefits of a successful IE can be measured both economically, through markers such as capital investment, inward investment, creation of highly skilled jobs and on a societal level by promoting inclusive growth – creating educational and employment opportunities to improve social mobility.

At Nexus, we have been privileged to host and support many inspiring fast growth businesses since our launch in May 2019 and our focus has always been to enhance and create a thriving community that is rich in opportunity and addresses the real needs of member businesses. The many challenges posed by the pandemic acted as an accelerator for innovation as many of the Nexus community used creative problem solving either to pivot or rapidly grow their businesses. Itecho Health, developed a dedicated healthcare platform, Ascelus, for patients with long-term health conditions, enabling them to connect with their clinicians via their smartphones and devices. During the pandemic they increased from an initial two to now cover 22 disease areas supported by medical student placements, whilst continuing to grow their team.

We know from our members that innovation ecosystems and the investment they attract are a major draw for international companies seeking to work with leading academics, optimise their innovation, scale fast and generate products and services which deliver real impact. Betalin Therapeutics, biotechnology specialists based in Israel, chose Nexus as its UK base to develop revolutionary treatment for diabetes, supported by funding from the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership. We also recently attracted US cloud-based software multinational, Snowflake, on the strength of our talent proposition – they have a major recruitment focus on software engineers. Innovation is very much a ‘contact sport’ – the more diverse the people and the experiences, perspectives, and technologies they bring, the newer and more creative the thinking allowing entrepreneurs to think beyond traditional solutions.

That is where innovation hubs play a fundamental role, not least because they enable those precious ‘water cooler moments’ by creating spontaneous, random connections. We are proud to be able to say that over half of our member businesses at Nexus are currently exploring opportunities to innovate with each other, illustrating the power of a close-knit community. But more importantly, we facilitate curated collaboration – our latest Innovation Cluster Challenges Workshop, for example, hosted with our strategic partners KPMG, attracted over 40 entrepreneurs, businesses, funding providers and advisers. Innovation ecosystems are a catalyst for creativity, collaboration and community – as we enter a post-pandemic recovery period, their role has never been more important.


This insight was first published as part of NCUB’s State of the Relationship 2021 Report. Read the piece on page 23 of the report here.

About Nexus:
Nexus brings together the brightest minds from business, technology and academia. Our community of high growth businesses is located across the globe but has its physical base in a state-of-the-art innovation hub on the University of Leeds campus.