07Conclusions – What can decision makers do to support university links with high-growth firms?

Even these few examples drawn on in this report highlight the varied approaches, direct and indirect, that cities are adopting to support collaboration between universities and high-growth firms. Effective approaches to collaboration vary considerably between cities, and if decision makers wish to support the links between universities and businesses they must consider the type of intervention relevant to their city. Below are some of the lessons to consider.

Cities can use direct funding to support collaborations

For some cities, providing certainty to an established innovation system through long-term funding can ensure stability and bring new opportunities. (For example the Fraunhofer model or Engine Shed).

Other cities collaborate and use shared resources for high impact funding for infrastructure, this in turn can attract businesses to a university for collaborations (e.g. N8 research partnership and the Polaris computer).

Cities can build the scale required for successful collaborations through supporting networks

Some Cities benefit their firms by supporting flexible networks with other cities matching a range of business challenges to a range of university expertise (e.g. Interface Food and Drink).

Other cities establish specialised networks to support local strengths and growth industries (e.g. DigitalCity).

Cities should concentrate on their comparative advantages

Some cities can work with large firms that build on local strengths, and then assist smaller growing firms in benefiting from supply chain innovations (e.g. the WMG and AMRC centres).

Alternatively some cities fund infrastructure such as incubator space and hardware for small growing firms (e.g the N8 HPC and Engine Shed).

Cities should ensure high-growth firms can benefit

Some cities need to organise and sustain successful networks, to ensure businesses are not suffering networking fatigue, or that they become overly specialised (e.g. Cambridge).

Cities should also ensure they balance maximising the benefits of local comparative advantages with missing opportunities in other sectors.

Figure 1: Balancing priorities


Cities that are succeeding in supporting links between universities and high-growth firms are using their local knowledge and relationships to identify where there are opportunities to build on successful collaborations. By involving decision makers in networks of key partners, cities can identify barriers to collaboration directly and work with businesses and universities to overcome them.