Role of University in Regional Development Highlighted in New National Publication

31 March 2021

Written by: Tim Marks

A new national assessment of how universities contribute to regional economies and communities highlights the role of the University of Lincoln in helping to ‘level up' local areas.

A new national assessment of how universities contribute to regional economies and communities highlights the role of the University of Lincoln in helping to ‘level up’ local areas.

The new national Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF) published today (31 MARCH) by Research England reveals the University’s successful work in supporting community engagement, skills and enterprise, and its role in local growth and regeneration.

The University now generates more than £430 million for the economy each year and 1 in 6 people of working age residents in the city is either a student, a direct employee, or their job is indirectly linked to the University.

This framework, available on the KEF’s website, shows the contributions English higher education providers make to communities, both economically and socially, on both local and national levels.

The KEF uses a series of metrics that look at how universities translate research and innovation into activities that benefit society from a variety of different perspectives. These include public and community engagement, working with partners ranging from big businesses to small local firms, and how they commercialise their research.

More than 100 institutions provided detailed narrative accounts of how they build public and community engagement, and promote economic growth in their local area. The narratives paint a detailed, never-seen-before picture of how universities engage with their communities to build deeper relationships and to stimulate local growth.

Examples include programmes to support start-up businesses through the University’s Sparkhouse and Think Tank business incubation centres, the development of the Lincoln Science and Innovation Park to support high-tech industries, innovation funding for SMEs, and projects which celebrate culture and heritage, such as the International Bomber Command Centre. The University’s industrial partnerships and work to drive up skill levels and promote innovative research and development also feature, including the creation of the new Lincoln Medical School and work of the Lincoln Institute for Agri-food Technology.

Professor Mary Stuart, Vice Chancellor of the University of Lincoln, said: “Supporting regional economic development has always been part of our civic mission.

“We follow a ‘local to global’ principle of prioritising research and knowledge exchange that is relevant to our region and has global significance, driving economic development through all dimensions of civic life. As well as supporting local skills needs through our partnerships with industry, we also aim to enhance social and cultural life both within and beyond our immediate community.”

These include the University’s role as a founding member of the Greater Lincolnshire LEP, which coordinates public and private investment in the county, including in Lincolnshire’s food and farming sector which produces over 12% of the UK’s food supply and employs around 75,000 people. Other community projects include supporting local RAF families, who are frequently posted apart, with meaningful group activities run by University academics, so families can spend more time together.

The KEF groups similar universities in ‘clusters’ and does not represent a league table. Within its cluster of 29 institutions, the University of Lincoln was placed in the top 30% for public and community engagement; local growth and regeneration; skills, enterprise and entrepreneurship; working with the public and third sector; and working with business.

Chief Executive Officer of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), Dame Ottoline Leyser, said: “UKRI values the diverse and varied contributions that our higher education institutions make to society. The Knowledge Exchange Framework, published today by Research England, reflects and celebrates this diversity.

“The KEF also brings together rich accounts of how our universities engage in their local areas, contributing in varied and often innovative ways to their local communities and economies. As well as researchers and innovators, the activities captured in the framework highlight the diversity of essential roles – from technicians and project managers, to technology transfer professionals – in connecting discovery to prosperity and public good.”

Executive Chair of Research England David Sweeney said: “Universities engagement with society through Knowledge Exchange is an essential part of their mission alongside research and teaching.

“The Knowledge Exchange Framework will help universities understand where their strengths are, relative to others with similar missions. It showcases a diverse picture of the tremendous work they do in their places, nationally and internationally.”

KEF is intended to increase efficiency and effectiveness in the use of public funding for knowledge exchange. The framework aims to ensure a culture of continuous improvement in university knowledge exchange, across a range of different activities, and is likely to determine future funding allocation from Government.