Comparing university-centred ecosystems in the UK and the rest of Europe
Research England, working with partners from London universities, the National Centre for Universities and Business and the British Business Bank, is seeking to adopt an ecosystem approach to help inform research commercialisation and wider entrepreneurship relating to universities in the UK. Following our earlier work, including a literature review on entrepreneurial-university ecosystems, Research England commissioned us to undertake a study to identify comparable ecosystems in the UK and the rest of Europe and to explore potential areas for mutual learning.
Drawing on our previous UK-USA study and following a review of relevant literature, ten indicators on different aspects of ecosystem ‘performance’ and context were selected based on their feasibility, relevance, balance and comparability. These indicators were used alongside stakeholder discussions to identify potential matches between five UK cities (London, Oxford, Cambridge, Manchester and Edinburgh) and a selection of places in the rest of Europe. Joint consultations with representatives from the UK cities and eight of the eleven matched European places were undertaken to explore good practice and areas for mutual learning. Through the study, new relationships between universities were developed and existing ones enhanced, which may lead to further joint working and mutual learning. Common areas of interest were as follows:
- Funding mechanisms for commercialisation, especially for technology-based start-ups, and attracting investment for early-stage ventures.
- Learning from effective practice in building an enterprise culture, for both academics and students, and how to animate this and ensure a joined-up approach within and across institutions in an ecosystem.
- Engagement strategies for developing strong university-business partnerships and better coordination of these partnerships within universities.
- How to use networks, successes and role models to attract and retain talent in an ecosystem and ensure its continued development, e.g. through successful entrepreneurs ‘giving back’ their expertise and networks to the next cohort.