Business and University: a collective endeavour for prosperity

A statement of common cause

Universities Scotland and SCDI share a mission to promote Scotland’s inclusive economic growth. Together, we represent a wide range of interests across business, academia, the third sector and the public sector – all of whom are committed to the promotion of prosperity and the common good.

This short statement focuses on our shared ambitions for business and higher education to make our full collective contribution to inclusive growth, and how Scottish Government and its agencies can support that.

What we’re looking for from Scottish Government

Universities and business will continue to work together even more closely. We want to accelerate the development of a ‘virtuous cycle’ of innovation-hungry businesses and highly-responsive universities, working together to promote productivity and inclusive growth. We are also looking to government and its agencies to provide the policy environment
within which this work can thrive.

Here are some ways in which we believe government – devolved and UK – can help enable further development of the synergy between business and universities.

students in classroom studying

Scotland’s productivity and prosperity will depend on our ability to develop the full talents of our people and utilise those talents in full in the workplace. Government and its agencies can help universities to develop people with the skills and attributes for success in the future economy through:

• Supporting higher education’s work to develop people with a wide range of skills and attributes to succeed in multiple careers throughout their lifetime.
• Policies that support true lifelong learning, including meeting the re-skilling needs and aspirations of mature learners throughout their careers.
• Supporting the development of work-based learning models that are increasingly flexible in meeting the needs of business, building on the success of the current Graduate Apprenticeship model.
• Giving business access to Apprenticeship Levy funds to invest in staff development.
• Supporting businesses and individuals to invest in their up-skilling/ re-skilling at various stages of their career through an entitlement to lifelong learning.
• Evaluating the impact on productivity and inclusive growth of investments in peoples’ skills.

One challenge facing the Scottish economy is that not all businesses are yet able to fully utilise the talents of their employees. This partly reflects our identity as a primarily an SME-based economy, with not all SMEs able to provide stretching roles and a wide range of development opportunities for all their staff. Government and its agencies can help business and universities to work together to stimulate the SME sector and its demand for universities’ support through:

• Incentivising SMEs to invest in the up-skilling/ re-skilling of their staff.
• Incentivising SMEs to invest in leadership development.
• Ensuring that the enterprise agencies are tasked with offering advice to a wide range of SMEs about how to grow as innovative businesses.
• Referring more SMEs to universities for support for their innovation and growth.

There is an unbreakable link between universities’ work on fundamental research discoveries and the translation of discovery into products, processes and innovations that support productivity and economic growth. Government and its agencies can support the research pipeline from discovery to business application through:

• Supporting Scottish higher education as a world-class research powerhouse.
• Maintaining participation in European structures to promote research and innovation.
• Ensuring that policy and funding for research and innovation supports the whole pipeline from fundamental discovery to application.
• Within that, examining whether policy and funding instruments support the translation of universities’ discoveries into products, processes and shared intellectual property that can enable business success and inclusive growth. This should include using the Scottish National Investment Bank to invest in the translation of new ideas into viable business propositions.

The UK Industrial Strategy is a huge opportunity for Scotland. To realise this ambition in full we are looking for:

• Explicit joint commitment by the UK and Scottish Governments that they want Scotland to win at least 14 % of Industrial Strategy challenge resources.
• Scottish Government advocacy and investment to support major ‘gamechanging’ Industrial Strategy proposals from business and universities, e.g. on Scotland’s ‘blue economy’.

The attraction of new talent to Scotland is essential to our growth and productivity. Universities and business are a key magnet for that talent but we need an immigration
regime that supports this. We seek:

• A UK-wide immigration regime that is open to the attraction of talent from the EU and beyond.
• Within that, the devolved capacity for Scotland to attract talent where we have particular skills and demographic needs.
• Continued participation in the Erasmus+ scheme to enable the mobility of student talent.

Higher education is an export industry worth £1.94bn per year (according to ‘Scotland: A Trading Nation’). It has a significant role both in its own right and in partnership with industry. Scottish higher education institutions have academic or business partnerships in almost every nation, and Scottish university alumni are a worldwide
nexus of ‘soft power’. We support ambitions for growth in Scotland’s exports and look forward to:

• Explicit recognition and support of higher education as a key Scottish export industry.
• UK and Scottish Government and their agencies working closely with business and higher education to promote export opportunities, including building deeper links between Scotland and target regions in key markets.
• Deeper collaboration between business, higher education and government in bringing together partnerships to develop innovative approaches to partner nations’ challenges.

Key Points:

  • We want to accelerate the development of a ‘virtuous cycle’ of innovation-hungry businesses and highly-responsive universities, working together to promote productivity and inclusive growth.
  • We are also looking to government and its agencies to provide the policy environment within which this work can thrive.

Further Reading


Would you like to be updated about the latest publications?