New data reveals the critical and multimillion-pound impact the University of Sunderland is making in supporting the North East.

The multi-faceted way in which the University is contributing to regeneration, regional growth, research partnerships, and start-up businesses is highlighted in data released in Research England’s first Knowledge Exchange Framework.

The Framework highlights the University:

  • is in the top 10% of universities nationally for contributing to local growth and regeneration, through projects like Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing (SAM), which has just been evaluated as contributing a gross £43 million to the North East economy
  • is in the top 30% of universities nationally on “research partnerships”, reflecting the collaboration we do on research, from work on new drugs through to supporting local firms with the latest technology
  • is the top university in the North East for graduate start-ups, and in the top 30% nationally.  93% of start-ups rated the support they received as “high quality” in a recent survey

The data, available on the KEF’s website, informs a series of metrics that look at the performance of English Higher Education Providers (HEPs) from a variety of different perspectives.

Professor Jon Timmis, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Commercial) at the University, said: “We welcome the Knowledge Exchange Framework in helping highlight the work we do to support the North East region.

“The breadth of the Framework reflects the excellent work within the University in supporting companies with innovation, promoting graduate enterprise and recruitment, undertaking cutting edge research and developing new products.

“As the Framework moves beyond the pilot year we look forward to working harder than ever to involve, support and learn from our local businesses, partners and communities, and to seeing this reflected in future publications.”

The latest data brings together rich accounts of how universities, including Sunderland, engage in their local areas, contributing in varied and often innovative ways to their local communities and economies.

As well as researchers and innovators, the activities captured highlight the diversity of essential roles – from technicians and project managers, to technology transfer professionals – in connecting university expertise to prosperity and public good.

This is the first time that detailed, qualitative information about how HEPs build community engagement and promote growth in their local areas has been gathered together in a structured and systematic way allowing for easy comparison.

Laura Foster, ERDF Internship and Enterprise Manager at the University, explains how the team have managed to claim the position as top North East University for graduate start-ups.

She said: “We’ve always had a strong pipeline of ideas coming through from our students and graduates and were unsure as to how Covid would impact that, but the number of enquiries received during this difficult last year has remained high, with a range of ideas coming forward.

“We recognised the importance of continuing our support through our Enterprise Place and Digital Incubator offers; making sure it was accessible especially during this time.

“The engagement has been amazing and feedback in a recent survey demonstrated that 95% of students and graduates stated that the support was effective in increasing their entrepreneurial skills.

“It’s great to see that the high quality support we deliver improves outcomes for our budding student and graduate entrepreneurs.”

Case study – The Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing Project (SAM)

Jess Houston from RDS Enginerring Ltd

Jess Houston from RDS Enginerring Ltd with a new scanner.

SAM is just one reason why the University is leading the field when it comes to supporting regional business.

The multimillion-pound project is having a critical impact on North-East companies, despite the pandemic.

At a time when many of the region’s manufacturing SMEs are having to re-think and readjust their practices, SAM is proving a much-needed lifeline by adding millions in value to participating businesses.

The project – one of the North East’s largest investment programmes – aims to help businesses become more productive and sustainable.

Businesses like RDS Engineering who were able to purchase state-of-the-art scanning equipment, purchased with the assistance of the SAM.

RDS managing director, Rob Bone, backed the SAM Project as a vital weapon in the armoury to combat the impact of the COVID19 pandemic has had on manufacturing businesses.

He said: “There are businesses that are going to need all the support available to them as we emerge from lockdown and begin the process of restoring normality.

“Projects like SAM are essential to help firms, like ours, take that next step and begin operating on another level.

“We probably would not have been in a position to invest in the new scanning equipment if it weren’t for the support of the SAM Project.

“However, having done so, and gained new knowledge and understanding via the workshop, we have massively reduced our inspection timescale – in most cases turning weeks into days, which has been a huge manhours saving for the business.”

SAM participants recently reported an overall £47.1m gross value added to businesses who engaged with SAM, and growth in employment of 25.1 per cent along with sales growth of 30.1 per cent between the baseline position and the business position following programme support

The success of SAM has now seen it receive an extra £5.9million for Phase Two, which will see it extended to 2023.