Collaboration Progress Monitor 2019
- Published: Friday, 28 June 2019 10:02
- Written by National Centre for Universities and Business
The National Centre tracks progress in UK university-business collaboration using a bespoke tool. It identifies emerging trends through:
- Publicly available data released annually,1
- 15 metrics across four dimensions: resources for collaboration, knowledge flows between universities and business, partnerships and commercialisation activity,
- Comparison with the five year average,
- Detecting trends for early warnings of changing indicators.
The National Centre monitors progress in UK university-business collaboration, tracking annual changes and long-term trends.
All of the data in this year’s Collaboration Progress Monitor covers the 2016-17 academic year, the first academic year to follow the result of the 2016 Brexit referendum2. For the most part, the number of interactions has increased across the board. However, the opposite is true with regards to the value of the interactions, with most averages falling when compared with the previous year.
- Foreign investment in UK universities increased from 2016 to 2017, whereas business investment decreased over the same period.
- With respect to domestic businesses, university interactions with SMEs decreased significantly in the same time, though the average value of the deals did increase. The opposite is true when looking at interactions with large businesses, with an observed growth in the number of interactions but a fall in the average deal size.
- Graduate employment in innovative sectors fell, whereas postgraduate employment rose.
University-business partnerships 2017
A decrease in the number of interactions with SMEs by 13% from the previous year was registered by universities. However, there was a significant increase of 21.8% in the size of the average deal. In last year’s Monitor, we reflected on possible early Brexit impacts on the number and size of deals with large businesses; this year, we see a slight increase of 1.6% in the number of deals, but a decrease of 4.5% in the size of the average deal.
In the context of the increasingly diverse nature of knowledge exchange and multifaceted strategic relationships with large firms, an increase in interactions – and attendant reduction in value – is perhaps to be expected.
Universities reported a 33.8% increase in the number of Innovate UK grants from 2016 to 2017. A significant decrease in the size of the average grant - 72.3% from 2016 – was observed. This significant decrease is effected by eight grants for large-scale projects awarded in 2016 above £25m. In 2017, no academic grants awarded by Innovate UK in 2017 were above £8m. Fluctuations in Innovate grants are affected by singular large investments or the advent of new keystone programmes (such as the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund).
Commercialisation in UK universities 2017
Universities issued 38.4% more licenses compared to the previous year. However, income from licencing activity fell from £125.8m to £101.7m from 2016 to 2017, a fall of 22.0%.
Universities registered an increase of 16.1% in granted patents from the previous year. The total of 1416 patents exceeded the 5-year average, as did the previous year’s total of 1219. The number of spin-off companies that have survived for at least 3 years grew to 1072, a growth of 4.0% from 2016. Taken in sum, these changes suggest a steady increase in the ability of universities to capture and sustain the value of interactions leading to IP, and fewer early exits. An increase in the sustainable stock of high-technology firms in the UK should be supported by emerging policy direction.
Resources for university-business collaboration 2017
A slight decrease of 1.1% in industry income from knowledge exchange activities (excluding licencing) was reported by universities, falling from £956m to £954m. This contraction is a continuation of that observed in 2016. There was an increase of 8.1% in the share of investment in R&D from overseas sources - taking the total to £1.46bn - with a 2.3% increase in the share of investment from business sources.
Foreign investment trends speak to the continuing attraction of the UK as a place to realise R&D ambitions, at least in the immediate aftermath of the EU referendum. But the overall decrease in business investment is potentially concerning from the perspective of plans to increase investment in R&D to 2.4% of GDP by 2027.
Knowledge flows between universities and business 2017
The share of graduates employed in innovative sectors3 fell to 37.5%, falling both by 0.4% and below the 5-year average; though this is a gentle deceleration it is representative of a continuing trend. However, there was an increase of 1.6% in the total numbers of graduates employed in innovative sectors and an increase of 2.7% in the total number of graduates in employment. Post-graduate employment, defined as either in work or in work and study, rose to 74%. This is an increase of 0.63% compared with 2016 and markedly above the 5-year average.
Devolved monitors display 12 indicators tracking collaboration in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. For consistency with previous reporting a 4-year average is used.
Table 1: Devolved indicators for collaboration
|2017 Average*||2017||2017 Average*||2017||2017 Average*||2017||2017 Average*||2017|
|Industry income for KE
|Graduate employment in
|HEI deals with SMEs||62,705||54,332||1,419||1,349||12,698||19,433||1,277||1,061|
|£ per deal with SME||£2,561||£3,165||£3,221||£3,141||£1,951||£1,811||£4,498||£5,480|
|HEI deals with large
|£ per deal with large
|Innovate UK academic
|£ per Innovate UK
|Income from licencing
* 4 year average
English universities observed an increase of 0.4% in industry income from knowledge exchange activities (excluding licencing) and a decrease of 0.3% in graduate employment in innovative sectors from 2016.
The number of interactions with SMEs reported by English universities decreased by 19.4%, while the number of interactions with large businesses increased by 1.1%. The reverse was the case with regards to the size of the average deal, with the size of the average deal with SMEs increasing by 30.4% and the size of the average deal with large businesses decreasing by 2.7%.
English universities experienced an increase of 40.5% from 2016 in the number of Innovate UK grants awarded to them for participating in collaborative projects. The value of the average grant offer saw a significant decrease of 74.6%, due to the seven grants in 2016 that had a grant offer of above £25,000,000. There were also increases in the number of active spin-offs in the last 3 years, the number of patents granted, and the number of licenses granted, though there was a decrease in the income from licencing activity.
Northern Irish universities
Northern Irish universities saw a decrease in both industry income from knowledge exchange activities (1.3%) and graduate employment in innovative sectors (8.3%) from 2016.
A significant increase of 62.1% in the number of deals with SMEs was reported by Northern Irish universities. However, the size of the average deal fell by 31.8%. The reverse was true with regards to large businesses, with a decrease reported in terms of the number of deals (20.2%) and an increase reported in terms of the size of the average deal (30.3%).
Northern Irish universities observed a decrease in both the number and the average grant size of Innovate UK grants from 2016 (19.4% and a striking 51.4% respectively).The number of licenses granted as well as the income from licencing activity both increased (42.6% and 14.7% respectively), while the number of patents granted more than doubled. The number of spin-offs active by at least 3 years remained unchanged from 2016.
Scottish universities experienced slight decreases in both industry income from knowledge exchange and graduate employment in innovative sectors.
Increases were reported in both the number of deals with SMEs and the average size per deal with SMEs from 2016, and an increase was also reported in the number of deals with large businesses. However, there was a decrease in the average size per deal with large businesses.
The number of Innovate UK grants increased by 22.2% from 2016, with the significant drop of 61% in the average grant offer due to the value of one academic grant being over £25,000,000. There was increases in the number of patents granted, the number of spinoffs active at least 3 years, the number of licenses granted and the income from licencing activity.
Welsh universities reported an increase of 1.1% in industry income from knowledge exchange activities from 2016, with a decrease observed in the percentage of graduates employed in innovative sectors.
While the number of deals with both SMEs and large businesses both decreasing (10.1% and 24.5% respectively), the value of the average deal with both SMEs and large businesses both increased (22.3% and 27.9% respectively).
The number of Innovate UK grants increased by 13.3% compared to 2016, with the average size of the grant falling by 32%. A decrease in number of patents and licenses granted by Welsh universities was reported, though there was an increase in the income from licencing activity. Spin-offs active for at least 3 years increased to 98 from 2016, an increase of 2.1%.
Progress over time
As noted, this iteration of the Collaboration Progress Monitor is the first to capture an academic year after the June 2016 EU referendum result. As could be expected, this data does not indicate a swathe of decisions being taken in the immediate aftermath of the result with significant impacts for university-business collaboration – the context of Brexit and other macro influences may be more keenly felt in future versions of the Monitor.
In some cases we see continuations of existing trends. Reduced business investment in R&D and declining value of interactions present challenges for Government. However, the UK’s continued success in attracting FDI speaks to the value of the UK’s research base and structural comparative advantages that will be key to sustaining our innovative economy. And confidence in commercialisation continues to demonstrably grow, with licences and patents continuing to increase in number (though the contraction in income from licencing activity is an interesting development worthy of further investigation).
Going forward, as we see the impact of not just Brexit, but structural and financial changes to support for innovation and collaboration, a more complex picture is likely to emerge. For example, the contraction in number of interactions with SMEs – but continued increase in their value – could accelerate as higher-value interactions are selected.
Table 2: Indicators grouped as resources for collaboration, knowledge flows, partnerships and commercialisation
|Collaboration||Industry income from KE (excluding licencing)||Income received by universities from
large and small business as a share total external income.
|Business funds in HE||R&D funded by business and performed by HE as a share of all R&D performed in HE.||4.4%||4.4%||4.4%||4.5%|
|Foreign funds in HE||R&D funded by foreign sources and
performed by HE as a share of all R&D performed in HE.
|Knowledge Flows||Graduate employment||Share of employed (full-time) first degree leavers that are employed in innovation active sectors (as defined in the UK Innovation Survey).||38.2%||37.5%||38.8%||37.9%|
|Postgraduate employment||Share of postgraduates in work, or
combination of work and study.
|Partnerships||HEI deals with SMEs||Number of deals with SMEs reported by UK universities.||73,385||76,165||76,201||87,559|
|£ per deal with SME||Average size of deal with SME.||£2,449||£2,852||£2,374||£2,342|
|HEI deals with large
|Number of deals with large businesses reported by UK universities.||25,042||26,211||24,667||25,794|
|£ per deal with large
|Average size of deal with large business.||£24,565||£23,811||£24,213||£24,943|
|Innovate UK academic
|Number of grants with academic partners
awarded by Innovate UK.
|£ per Innovate UK
|Average size of grants with academic
partners awarded by Innovate UK.
|Commercialisation||Licenses granted||Number of non-software and software licenses issued by UK universities.||5555||8517||4504||6152|
|Income from licencing (£m)||University income from licencing.||£94.96||£101.68||£87.02||£130.31|
|Patents granted||Number of patents granted to UK
|Spin-offs||Number of spin-offs still active after three years of their creation by UK universities.||1012||1072||998||1031|
1. Data sources include: Higher Education-Business and Community Interaction (HE-BCI) Survey; (ONS) UK Gross Domestic Expenditure on Research and Development (GERD); Destinations of Leavers in the United Kingdom (DLHE); gov.uk database on Innovate UK funded projects.?
2. Whilst data for most of the indicators is available for 2018, in order to present a consistent economic overview, 2016 data is employed, for which statistical availability was complete for all indicators considered. Full methodological outline available from the NCUB website.?
3. Specifically, we look at DLHE data on a share of graduate employment in the following sectors: wholesale and retail; real estate and research; financial activities; manufacturing; construction; electricity; gas and water supply; mining and quarrying.?
This article first appeared in the 2019 State of the Relationship report published 19 June 2019.
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