By Dr. Helen Turner
I was invited to speak at an insightful panel discussion with Beauhurst about the Midlands’ investment landscape and the role universities play in accelerating growth last week.
Beauhurst’s research is regularly used by investors, financial services institutions, government departments, think tanks, as well as universities to understand the innovation landscape and help determine policy.
Midlands Innovation Commercialisation of Research Accelerator (MICRA) is Midlands Innovation’s dedicated enterprise and innovation programme which has been working across our eight universities* to build a thriving spinout and start-up ecosystem.
A report (download here) commissioned by MICRA and produced by Beauhurst which has analysed the sector and includes some impressive achievements:
· Last year saw a record £665m invested in Midlands-based companies
· 132 spinouts were created from Midlands Innovation universities
· The Midlands is a hotbed for spinouts in the sector of ‘Analytics, insights and tools’ (software companies specialising in Big Data and AI) and ‘Research tools/reagents’ (specialist testing for chemical and biological reactions for use in research and manufacturing)
So why did our region only secure 5% of the £13.5bn invested in UK companies? Is our region undercapitalised and how can the Midlands Innovations’ eight universities help to strengthen the innovation ecosystem?
I was joined by David Coleman, University of Birmingham Enterprise, Trevor McMillan, Chair of Midlands Innovation and VC for Keele University Henry Whorwood, Head of Research and Consultancy at Beauhurst, David Hardman Managing Director of Bruntwood SciTech and Alice Hu Wagner from the British Business Bank to talk about the report findings. Here are my key takeaways from the discussion.
Alice Hu Wagner joined us at the launch of MICRA and she reflected on the importance of co-ordinating knowledge exchange between start-ups on the best way to access funds, which can traditionally fall victim to regional inequalities.
Cementing the value of knowledge exchange further, David Hardman pointed out: “The joy of knowledge is the more you use it, the more you get,” a statement I agree with and illustrates what the Midlands Innovation is all about.
It is our aim to facilitate knowledge exchange – not just within the universities, but across wider industry partnerships – to make it as easy as possible to collaborate and secure funding to support transformative research.
We have nearly 900 academics engaged in space-related research within the Midlands Innovation universities and construction is underway for the state-of-the-art Space Park Leicester. This presents an exciting opportunity and there is great potential to create a West Midlands Space cluster – a major strength for the region which should be capitalised on.
Thanks to the National Rehabilitation Centre, experts from Loughborough University and University of Nottingham are leading pioneering improvements in clinical rehabilitation (supported by a national network of expertise that includes all MI institutions); we also have the highest number of medical technology companies in the UK – making the region the perfect place for defence and rehabilitation innovation.
Yet when it comes to transport our East and West connectivity is poor and the East Midlands receives the lowest level of infrastructure investment per head in the UK at £268 – compared to an average of £481.
By collectively understanding our strengths and working in partnership across institutions we can generate the economic evidence to secure vital funding for improved transport and infrastructure.
The report also highlighted that an impressive 1/3 of UK jobs in the energy sector are in the Midlands.
A key factor in our creation of the Energy Research Accelerator which was established five years ago with a £60m investment from government.
Now nearing its completion, we have built 23 novel energy research and demonstration facilities across the Midlands, delivered £120m in co-investment and shaped the region’s green growth agenda. This is why we are championing for further investment into ERA 2.
If you haven’t already read the report, you can download it here.
If you’d like to discuss any of the Midlands Innovation programmes, feel free to get in touch.
Alternatively, you can sign up to our newsletter to get insights from the projects taking place across the eight universities straight to your inbox.
*The eight universities in the Midlands Innovation are Aston University, University of Birmingham, Cranfield University, Keele University, University of Leicester, Loughborough University, University of Nottingham and University of Warwick.