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Top northern universities' impact double that of Premier League - report

Posted on 15 September 2016

The value to the economy of the eight most research-intensive universities in the Northern Powerhouse region is almost double that of the entire Premier League, a report reveals today.


The N8 universities contribute £6.6bn of GVA (gross value added) to the Northern economy per year.*

The scale and breadth of the economic impact of the universities is revealed in a report by the N8 Research Partnership – Power of 8: Knowledge, Innovation and Growth for the North – launched today.

The report also reveals the universities of Durham, Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield and York together delivered a total of 119,000 FTE jobs - equivalent to all the jobs within a city the size of Salford.

And it found that the N8 universities attracted £1.26bn of research funding per annum, of which £127m - some 13% - came from European Union sources, the vast majority of that from EU Government sources.

The research by the N8 Research Partnership, the collaboration body for the northern research-intensive universities, and Viewforth Consulting, was launched today at an event in Leeds.

The findings prompted calls by Professor Koen Lamberts, Vice-Chancellor of the University of York and Chair of N8, for Prime Minister Theresa May to accelerate the Government’s plans by increasing investment in infrastructure and innovation in the North.

Professor Lamberts said: “This research paints a compelling and comprehensive picture of the contribution our universities make to the Northern economy, creating jobs and prosperity for people from all walks of life. It makes abundantly clear that N8 universities are not just world-class research institutions, but also major economic enterprises, generating significant revenue and economic activity and driving inward investment.

“The Government’s Northern Powerhouse agenda can and should play a major role in creating an environment that enables our universities to generate even more benefit to the Northern and wider UK economy.

“Such benefit can only come, however, if there is further investment in innovation in the North: in inward investment, in transport and infrastructure.

“We need to be able to attract and retain the world’s most talented academics, researchers and students; we need to ensure that our students, staff and partners can easily access our world-leading facilities; and we need to attract innovative overseas businesses so that we have a genuinely international innovation and enterprise eco-system.”

The report highlights the role played by the N8 universities in helping to establish new businesses, the commercialisation of innovation, and the development of the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Key findings include:

  • N8 universities attract annual research income of £1.26bn, 88% of all Northern Higher Education research income
  • Their economic activity is worth a total of £12.2bn to the Northern economy
  • N8 universities contribute a larger share of North of England Region GVA than the entire Northern media industry, agriculture, or motor vehicle manufacturing sectors
  • N8 universities provide consultancy services to more than 17,000 small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs)
  • The N8 universities have a 10-year track record of successfully collaborating across the region
  • 13% of the N8 universities’ research funding comes from European Union sources

Professor Lamberts also encouraged the Government to resolve uncertainty over international research funding for UK universities in light of the Brexit vote.

He said: “While some uncertainties remain because of the Brexit vote, we should be confident that we can face the challenges this may bring. The N8 universities have always been global in outlook, focused on contributing to the world beyond the lecture hall or campus and this will continue despite the referendum result. The UK has some of the best universities in the world and our academics, researchers and students play a significant part in that success.

“However, we believe the Government must act swiftly to address the potential gap in research funding that might arise through our withdrawal from the EU. Such funding is essential if we are to retain our global standing and attract the brightest and best talent. It also plays a significant role in research and innovation, which directly leads to UK business creation and employment growth.”

The report has been endorsed by Former Deputy Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Lord Heseltine who, writing in it, says the findings show that the research-intensive universities of N8 can be at the forefront of a rejuvenated Northern economy, and play a central role in strengthening and stabilising industries through new ideas, innovations and insights.

He said: “As the devolution of important powers to cities and regions moves forward, partnerships between cities and universities can provide a clear voice of leadership and ideas, and can create a high-skill, innovation-driven future.

“I believe and expect the N8 universities, working individually and together, to be at the forefront of a rejuvenated Northern economy.”

* N8 Universities economic impact as measured in GVA includes direct activity, knock-on activity and student body impact ion 2014/2015. Ernst & Young (EY) Economic Impact Assessment of the Premier League, published May 2015, indicated a GVA contribution of £3.4bn in the 2013/2014 season.

Further information:

  • The modelled analysis and background research for this report was undertaken for the N8 Research Partnership by Ursula Kelly and colleagues at Viewforth Consulting Ltd.

The modelled analysis and comparators relate to the academic and financial year 2014/15, the most recent year for which data were available. The study was carried out in spring 2016.

The modelled analysis uses the same core higher education impact modelling system as has been used previously by Viewforth Consulting Ltd for analysis of UK higher education impact and comprises a UK input-output model using official UK data and statistics. The model specification can be found in the Universities UK 2014 report: The impact of universities on the UK economy

An additional extension to the model was specifically constructed for this study to cover the North of England, using a location quotient approach. The North of England was defined as covering the 3 former Government Office Regions and NUTS 1 statistical regions of England of the North East, the North West and Yorkshire & the Humber.

The primary input data source for higher education financial, staff and student data was drawn from Higher Education Statistics Agency data (2016): The Finances of UK Higher Education Providers, Staff in Higher Education 2014/15 and Students in Higher Education 2014/15.

Supplementary data for economic and business comparators were drawn from official Office of National Statistics economy and labour market data together with other published business survey data such as that provided by regional editions of ‘Business Insider’ magazine and company annual reports. Data on university spin outs and knowledge transfer activities drew on the published Higher Education Business and Community Interaction Survey (HE-BCIS) data for 2014-15 (HESA 2016) together with information provided by the universities.

  • The N8 Research Partnership (N8) is the collaboration body for the universities of Durham, Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield, and York, and aims to maximise the impact of this research base to enable business innovation and societal transformation.

The N8 universities form the largest research-pooling partnership in the UK.

N8 creates programmes involving a critical mass of world class academics which form networks of innovation excellence with partners in other sectors – to drive investment and economic growth.

N8’s priority areas of collaborative research are Urban and Community Transformation – including Policing Research, Urban Living and Arts and Culture; and AgriFood – including Sustainable Food Production, Consumption & Health, and Resilient Supply Chains. N8’s strategy also focuses on areas of growth notably in Life Sciences, and in Robotics & Autonomous Systems.

View and download the report:

Visit the N8 website:

Twitter: @N8research /#ThePowerof8

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