Universities in Britain have received more than £2.5 billion as a result of working with businesses – and in the West Midlands, universities say they have received substantial benefits from the links.
The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills and the Higher Education Funding Council for England showed that the sector’s contribution to the economy reached a record level for 2006-07.
The strong links between universities, colleges and businesses are playing an increasingly important role in sharing and improving skills, carrying out research and helping to solve problems.
But a Midland university may see its department which helps small businesses close because of a “re-routing” of grants by the Government to help small firms.
This week Warwick Manufacturing Group received a £22 million boost in a new link with Siemens PLM Software which will be used by students, researchers and businesses using the new £120 million Warwick Digital Laboratory, which will be the first digital research centre of its kind in the world.
A spokesman for Warwick University said: “We are looking to do things with advanced materials and hydrogen among other projects and there has not been a time when Government and regional government have been more astute to build partnerships between universities.
While some of these links with businesses look to be on a big scale on the surface, underneath they are helping small and medium size enterprises.”
Birmingham University said it was also pleased with the way working with businesses was developing. While most research funding was through grants the university was also seeking funding from companies to work with them on consultancy and access to services.
“There is always greater demand for funding than the funds available,” said a spokeswoman for Birmingham University.
“Funding is not dropping off and the competition gets tougher but we are prepared for that factor and generally we do well and are improving our performance on the basic research funding but also on the money working directly with business.
“There have been significant increases in the amount of funding coming into the research base and this increases confidence and yields the benefits of working with businesses.”
During the past 10 years there have been systematic investments in encouraging universities to work with businesses.
“It takes a while for new knowledge to turn into business benefits, but we are making progress in that direction.’’