Business-university collaborations have continued to be successful, despite facing the significant economic and societal upheaval caused by the pandemic. 

Data from the NCUB’s State of the Relationship 2022 report demonstrates that between 2019/2020 and 2020/2021, the number of interactions between universities and businesses decreased by just 2%.  

Further analysis of the interaction data uncovered that specific commercialisation activities, such as patent registrations increased by 11% annually, with a 4.5% increase in university spinouts surviving at least three years. 

This is tempered, however, by a 10.1% annual decrease in university income from industry through knowledge exchange activities. This was mainly driven by a decline in CPD, facilities and equipment, and contract research, largely driven by pandemic-related disruption. 

Dr Joe Marshall, Chief Executive of NCUB, said: ‘The resilience in university-business collaboration during a period of continued economic and political volatility is striking.  

“The limited decline in interactions is illustrative of their value to the organisations involved and the role collaboration plays in generating the ideas and skills they need to succeed.  

“The Government’s recommitment to increasing public investment in research and development (R&D) to £20bn is a recognition the importance it places on the research sector to aid innovation-led growth.  

“NCUB will continue to work with our members and policymakers to address any issues caused by the pandemic and support the important role collaboration can play in our economic recovery.” 

The report, funded by Research England, as part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), is an important barometer of the performance of business-university collaborations.      

Professor Dame Jessica Corner, Executive Chair of Research England, said: “Universities in partnership with business have a critical role to play to deliver the Government’s growth agenda.  

“This report provides evidence of the strength of that partnership and the good practices and new developments being pursued, and identifies key priorities and agendas to strengthen joint working. NCUB’s latest data analysis suggests strong performance in commercialisation which is a key Government priority area.  

“Looking forward, the report points towards the powerful role of collaboration to address productivity challenges – fundamental in helping to drive better living standards and higher-paid jobs, and pivoting the UK further towards innovation led growth.  

“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.”