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In recent years, Lancaster University has played a key role in the economic growth of the region and subsequently, the U.K. economy. Since 1998, the university has worked with over 6000 SME’s to provide growth and development in the country and was ranked amongst the top-ten universities for SME-engagement. Below are a couple of current projects of the university and how they have and will continue to contribute significantly to the region.
Wave 2 Growth Hub Program
In an effort to stimulate this growth in some of the fastest growing cities in England, the University led a £32 million government programme and created 15 new ‘Growth Hubs’ as part of the Regional Growth Fund’s City Deals Programme initiated by LUMS, for business growth. The ‘Growth Hub’ network brought together representatives from locally based networks, to learn from each other about what works best for business growth and job creation.
The aim of this was to ‘support local businesses and provide co-ordinated access to national and local business packages’ as reported by LUMS.
The programme has been a huge success, creating thousands of jobs in the private sector while having supported various SME’s across the region.
By 2017, it is anticipated that these ‘Growth Hubs’ will create more than 4000 new jobs and would have supported over 67,000 SME’s.
LUMS states that each ‘Growth Hub’ created support packages, which included grants/ bursaries, to skills development and mentoring, to one on one signposting to the most appropriate support.
These represented the strengths of particular areas. For instance, innovation was at the core of Oxford’s delivery plan, as was manufacturing for Coventry & Warwickshire.
The Lancaster University Management School was selected by the government to head the programme due to its skill and expertise in providing support to SMEs and its outstanding reputation for delivering complex growth and investment programmes.
A series of learning events, created by the programme team, provided opportunities for these Hubs to share best practice, across their geographical boundaries, on a range of specific issues from evaluation to stakeholder engagement.
The success of this programme has resulted in the expansion of the network, resulting in the creation of a Growth Hub in every one of the 39 Local Enterprise Partnership areas in England and meaning that almost every business in the country now has access to this support.
China Catalyst Program
In addition, Lancaster University have also contributed significantly to the economy through various other programmes including the £5.1 million investment towards the China Catalyst program which involves bringing together over 100 technology focused SME’s in the UK and China thereby offering greater opportunities for collaboration, innovation and trade.
The investment in this program led to the development of collaborative research and development initiatives through partnerships with businesses, which were particularly located in the Guangdong Province of China, with a focus on the development of new products for international markets, including China.
The teams include those with an expertise in science, technology, management and design, who will work with UK and Chinese partners on specific projects in both the UK and China with priority areas of R&D being identified in energy, environmental protection, new vehicle technology, materials, photonics, ICT, biotechnology and advanced manufacturing.
Through these programmes and various other agendas such as the ‘Cumbria Forum’ and the ‘Innovation in Manufacturing and Engineering’, Lancaster University will continue to thrive and grow on the prospects of helping build businesses, creating jobs and by contributing significant research and spending towards particular areas that are, in all seriousness, at the forefront of what matter in today’s world.