State of the Relationship

State of the Relationship

SoR page banner 2019

The State of the Relationship is the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB) flagship annual report showcasing university-business collaboration across the UK and providing an authoritative source on emerging and critical trends in collaboration.

Download the 2019 report here


The future is being built and developed by the changemakers within UK universities and business who are collaborating to build a post-Brexit UK which is innovative, sustainable and skilled. Now is the time to reimagine the way we innovate; to acknowledge that future jobs do not yet exist, but still meet skills needs; to not just champion diversity but change it.

The 2019 State of the Relationship report celebrates the changemakers building the future through interactions, and envision what that future might look like, and how it will succeed.

Please note that not all entries are guaranteed inclusion in the print version, although they will all be published on our website.

State of the Relationship 2019

1. An economy built on ideas

The UK currently invests significant funds into the innovation and realisation of ideas, largely thanks to our high-quality research expertise. But as we move towards a new international outlook, the UK’s place in the world will undoubtably shift and adapt; the rules for the innovation game are changing. So how can we ensure that our ideas still bring value to regional and national economies? Should we still be focusing on leveraging investment to innovate products and services, or can ideas alone drive the economy? And what does this mean for university-business collaboration?


  • Collaborations which focus on, or were particularly successful at developing ideas
  • Collaborations which focus on, or were particularly successful at gathering investment
  • Collaborations which focus on, or were particularly successful at innovating a product or service
  • Collaborations which focus on, or were particularly successful at creating an income stream
  • We also welcome submissions which compare the experience of working with a UK business or university versus an international one

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2. A better balanced UK

The relationship between productivity and place is simultaneously co-dependent and complicated. The government has committed to boosting productivity through addressing regional differences, but do the two go hand in hand? Does a rising tide lift all boats?

If not, then what would balancing, or re-balancing, the UK look like? Different areas have different expertise, and a one size fits all model does not work. So how can university-business collaboration address the variation of investment, capital, people, resources, equipment, capacity and capability?


  • Projects which focus on specific sectors, people or places which have benefited from a collaborative approach
  • Collaborations which have been successful due to their place (e.g. due to supply chain or strength or university)
  • Collaborations which have had a specific place-based impact
  • Collaborations which have come about as a result of Local Industrial Strategies

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3. Creative exchanges of knowledge

As we move towards a Knowledge Exchange Framework, it is timely to challenge the misunderstandings that exist around the exchange of knowledge – that it is dry, complicated and the privilege of large businesses and research-intensive universities.

In reality, knowledge exchange is far more creative and dynamic, and differs depending on the type, size and aims of the partners involved. It can be anything from shared spaces, to people, to priorities, and its impacts are just as wide-ranging.


  • Collaborations which include ‘unusual’ forms of knowledge exchange, from the very small to the very large
  • Collaborations with SMEs, focusing on how the partnership was set up, and how it worked
  • University perspectives on working with different sized businesses
  • Business perspectives on how their understanding of knowledge exchange has changed

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4. Future-proofing the graduate journey

Every major government ambition or new piece of economic policy relies on one core resource – a ‘well-educated’ workforce. It is now more widely accepted that the high-quality development of a graduate is not determined in a single period or environment but is achieved through a collaborative approach to a ‘graduate journey’; from leaving school to joining the workforce as a productive and valuable member.

But what does this look like, and whose responsibility is it to ensure that successful graduate journeys exist? To what end are we working, and what changes need to occur to achieve this?


  • Collaborations involving provision of work experience, paid employment or insights into work
  • Collaborations which support student or graduate well-being and resilience
  • Collaborations which focus on building business presence and exposure on campus
  • Collaborations which demonstrate employer involvement in course design and production

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5. Building a diverse workforce

Often, when we talk about diversity, we’re accidentally pulled into talking about homogeneity. Universities and businesses are using the same tactics to achieve different results; constrained by metrics and outcomes or hampered by the sheer volume of applications. This creates a mis-match in intention and result and perpetuates the myth that the ‘best’ path is universal, with no diversity.

So how can universities and businesses work together to achieve a truly diverse workforce, ensuring both economic benefit and better student outcomes. What does this look like, who’s leading in it, and are they making a difference?


  • Where businesses have expanded their recruitment practices to new institutions
  • Collaborations where contextualised recruitment process have been streamlined between universities and businesses
  • Collaborations to recruit based on characteristics diverse to specific industries e.g. mature students, women in STEM, care-leavers, etc

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6. Embedding a technical route

40% of technical skills learned in the first year of a four-year degree are out-dated by graduation; the UK is facing a shortfall of 20,000 skilled engineers by 2020; 85% of employers say technical skills are a bare necessity; and when internationally compared, the UK is vastly under-skilled to Levels 2 and 3.

The government has made technical education a clear priority, but what does a streamlined route look like, and what is it working to achieve? Where is the university-business engagement around the skilling, upskilling and reskilling of the workforce, and will this new formation work? How does this compare globally, and what lessons can we learn?


  • Collaborations which use the Apprenticeship Levy as part of a wider technical skill strategy
  • Collaborations working to improve technical higher education in full-time courses
  • Collaborations which consider using T-Levels as entry requirements to both university and work

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Information requested in the digital form

  • Your Organisation’s Name
  • Your Contact information
  • Case Study Headline (max 10 words)
  • Case Study Subheading (20-60 words)
  • Case study main copy: Case studies should max 450 words in length and should share best practice and inspiration, so we encourage a focus on specific projects and the use of direct quotes from participants about how they benefited from the collaboration.
  • Photo: We encourage all submissions to include a high-resolution image (approx 300dpi), including full copyrights. Original photos of participants in collaboration projects and partnerships usually provide the best audience engagement. If you do not wish to provide one, a stock image will be sourced.
  • Logo(s)
  • As far as possible we would like details of the impacts and outcomes of your collaboration, including:
  • number of jobs created
  • amount of funding granted
  • amount of private investment raised
  • products produced
  • number of further collaborations with the partner(s) as a result
  • number of spin-outs created and their success
  • number of work experience positions created
  • number of apprenticeship positions created
  • awards or recognition of collaboration, including in metrics and league tables
  • number of SMEs engagedv
  • GVA to local or national economy
  • number of relationships with other partners fostered

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Publication and Launch

The report is published online and in a print edition. You can browse our previous issues here:

State of the Relationship 2018
State of the Relationship 2017
State of the Relationship 2016
State of the Relationship 2015
State of the Relationship 2014

The launch event for the 2019 State of the Relationship report will be held in June. View photos from last year’s launch event here.

Any questions? The NCUB team is happy to help you throughout the submissions process. Please contact us at for advice.

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