Universities to power high-growth UK companies



Five leading universities have launched a new programme to enable the UK’s best tech SMEs to access university expertise and resources.

Called Scale-up, the programme is a collaboration between Bristol, Bath, Exeter, Southampton and Surrey universities.

Part of the SETsquared Partnership, the enterprise collaboration between the five universities aims to improve Britain’s investment record in research and development and benefit SME’s, accelerating innovation and growth and in turn providing a boost to the UK economy.

The programme hopes to enable scale-up companies to become the sector giants of tomorrow and is expected to generate over £25bn by 2030, creating an additional 30,000 high-skilled jobs in the tech sector.

SETsquared’s new Scale-up programme is supported by £5m of government funding through Research England’s Connecting Capability Fund, which will enable 240 of the most innovative scale-up companies to access support.

Professor Nishan Canagarajah, Pro Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bristol said: “Since SETsquared started, we have helped over 3,500 businesses who have gone on to create over 20,000 jobs and raise £1.5bn in investment. Today we are launching our new scale-up programme which will help hundreds of SMEs over the coming years access the knowledge and resources of our five Universities to accelerate their innovation and growth. This will benefit the UK economy in a major way.”

The Rt Hon Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy added: “The SETsquared Partnership has not only helped nurture and grow British technology businesses, but it has also contributed £8.6 billion to the UK economy, which is an incredible achievement.

“Through our modern Industrial Strategy, we’re calling on businesses to invest in the latest technology trends, and through our Sector Deals and Grand Challenges, we want the UK to be at the forefront of the technology revolution and make Britain fit for the future.”

The scale-up programme aims to confront the issue of how to ensure more UK tech start-ups develop to become major forces in their field. Warwick Economics estimate technology scale-ups are likely to produce 42% more GVA than traditional scale-ups and generate 16% more jobs.

Ministers have committed to increasing productivity in the UK and increasing spending on Research & Development from 1.7% of GDP to 2.4% to tackle these economic challenges. The UK currently ranks 22nd in a list of OECD developed countries.

Commenting on the impact that SETsquared’s member companies have on R&D, Professor Canagarajah added: “With the UK’s ‘R&D gap’, we want to show parliamentarians how SETsquared can drive innovation in the UK. Utilising our proven track record of supporting early stage tech companies to raise investment and building R&D partnerships with the Universities we can support these SMEs to become successful enterprises as they grow into global leaders in their industrial sectors.”

SETsquared has already undertaken a successful pilot programme with a Bristol-based company. William Hartley, Managing Director at hofer powertrain UK Ltd, said: “The SETsquared Scale-up Programme enabled hofer powertrain to work with the University of Bristol for the first time, this added a new research dimension to a £40 million automotive project that will be at the heart of hofer’s UK growth plans.”

picture shows L-R: Emma Thorn – SETsquared Bristol, Heather Macdonald Tait – Ultrahaptics, Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor Nishan Canagarajah – University of Bristol, Peter Blenkinsopp – Ultrahaptics

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