By Daniel Hunter

A review to boost growth opportunities for universities and local businesses has been launched by Universities and Science Minister David Willetts.

The independent review will be led by Sir Andrew Witty, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of GlaxoSmithKline and Chancellor of the University of Nottingham. It will offer practical steps for building relationships between universities, local businesses and local business bodies, including Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs).

”A strong relationship between businesses and universities can provide real growth opportunities in local areas. By forging links and sharing best practice, an efficient and practical partnership will help to boost the economy, benefiting both businesses and institutions," Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said.

“It is critical to the Government’s industrial strategy that universities play a full role in driving growth at a local level and then taking it on to a national and global scale. I look forward to reading the report produced by Sir Andrew Witty and am sure that he will highlight some positive suggestions on developing new ways of working to boost business and growth.”

The review will take into account recent developments including the Government’s response to Lord Heseltine’s report ‘No Stone Unturned’, the industrial strategy and the approach to EU structural funds, including ‘smart specialisation’.

”I am thoroughly looking forward to leading this review to report on how universities can best drive forward growth in their areas," Sir Andrew Witty said.

“I believe it is vitally important that the world leading capabilities in our universities and research base are at the heart of both the industrial strategy and local growth strategies that recognise and build on areas of local strength.”

A full set of terms of reference have now been set out to build the review around so that practical recommendations can be made. The review will explore the range of ways that universities contribute to their local economies and identify where we have world leading capabilities in our research base that can underpin the sectors and technologies of the industrial strategy.

Sir Andrew will also consider the diverse contributions that universities bring to local economies as providers of skills, major employers, providers in local supply chains, facilitators bringing people together and facilitators of innovation working with businesses of all sizes including SMEs. Sir Andrew will examine whether universities are being as effective as possible in this respect too, building on Sir Tim Wilson’s recent report on business and university collaboration.

The findings will also help to inform LEP strategic plans and EU investment plans. Sir Andrew Witty will report back to the Government later this year with his recommendations.

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