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From the development of game-changing renewable transportation, to new software that boosts data protection and privacy, businesses lead the way when it comes to innovation. 

Knowing your market, what customers want and where the inefficiencies are means that as a business, you’re perfectly placed to know exactly what problems need solving. But knowing the solution is only half of it. If you want to make it happen, you also need the resources and expertise to develop and launch your innovation – which is no mean feat for anybody.

An untapped resource

A university might not be the first place you think of contacting if you’re developing, testing or launching a new product. But aside from teaching students, research and development (R&D) collaborations with business are an important part of what universities do. 

Business collaborations with universities make a substantial impact on the UK economy. According to Universities UK, industry collaboration with higher education institutions successfully increased business productivity by between 11% and 16% in 2015/2016.

In the South East, the University of Brighton’s Green Growth Platform team has focused on helping businesses access university support. Since it launched in 2014, it has built up a network of over 1,000 environmentally focused businesses. It helps its community of businesses access the university and other business support services. 

In taking on an active role in the growth of the local economy, universities are demonstrating their worth beyond teaching the next generation of professionals. They are helping businesses solve real world problems and helping generate economic growth.

How it works

As a business owner, you might not know how to go about working with a university. Where do you start? Who do you contact in the first instance? Universities have teams that focus on working with businesses, and departments such as the Green Growth Platform act as a single point of entry into the organisation and a business friendly interface. 

Typically universities have expertise in a wide range of areas. The University of Brighton, for example, works with businesses on projects that include engineering, electronics, the built environment, chemistry and digital.

The type of partnership depends on what the business wants. Here are some of the most common:

Collaborative Research Projects

These projects involve a university academic and a business working together, and lead to new knowledge and understanding of a topic that’s relevant to the business. They typically last six months +.

Consultancy projects

These are bespoke consultancy projects delivered by university academics, for example third party testing of a new product or piece of equipment. The timescale depends on what the business needs.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships

KTPs, as they are known, involve a business working closely with a university on an innovation project lasting up to three years. The business employs a high-calibre graduate associate who works on the project in the business, but is supervised by an academic at the university. KTPs are hugely successful and result on average in an increase in business profits of £600k per annum in the three years following the project.

Accessing university equipment 

From VR environmental simulations to purpose-built houses for testing retrofit technologies, many universities hire out equipment and facilities for business to test and refine new products and services.

 

A new network to serve the South East

In spring 2019, The University of Brighton and the Green Growth Platform will be joining forces with two like-minded UK universities – Liverpool John Moores University and University of Portsmouth, to form Clean Growth UK. 

Clean Growth UK is a national partnership of three universities all committed to working with businesses on clean and green business innovation. In the South East, businesses will be able to continue working with the Green Growth Platform at the University of Brighton, but also be able to access expertise and facilities at any of the other partner universities. 

It means businesses in the South East will be able to continue working with the Green Growth Platform, but also be able to access knowledge and facilities at any of the three partner universities.

It certainly is a good time to think about your business and what innovation could help you operate in a cleaner way. And if you do have a burning idea in your mind, contact your local university to help make it happen. 

You can find out more about the University of Brighton’s Green Growth Platform at www.greengrowthplatform.co.uk. From March 2019, it will be part of the national Clean Growth UK network: www.clean-growth.uk.

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