Over 100 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and universities have collectively underscored the vital role of SME and university collaborations in NCUB’s new report, Arresting the decline: Unlocking the potential of university-SME interaction in the UK.

Dr Joe Marshall, Chief Executive of the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB), said: “SMEs are the backbone of the UK economy, fostering innovation and driving growth. The collaborative partnerships SMEs carry out with universities across the country are creating vast opportunities. Our new research, published today, demonstrates how essential these partnerships are for driving groundbreaking research and development, leading to new products, services, and technologies. These innovations not only enhance productivity but also open up new markets and boost economic growth at both national and regional levels.”

Marshall continued: “However, the new research also highlights a concerning trend. If income levels from SME interactions had remained at pre-pandemic levels it would be worth £77 million more than it currently is. There are several reasons for this worrying new pattern, but the loss of European Structural and Investment Funds has had a direct and immediate impact on these interactions. Indeed, we are experiencing a decline in public funding that supports these crucial interactions, putting the future of such collaborations at risk.”

Marshall concluded: “Despite the strategic importance, we know that universities and SMEs are currently facing mounting pressures –  strategic, financial, and political alike. We urge policy makers to act, before it’s too late. We are calling on the new Government to create a positive and long-term funding and policy framework to enable SMEs to gain the support and capacity to collaborate with key partners, including universities. Failure to address these issues now risks a decline in these partnerships and missed opportunities for growth.”