New research uncovers depth of relationship between higher education and SMEs

Almost three-quarters (74%) of small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in the UK have worked with a university or higher education institution (HEI) in the past year, according to research published today by the Institute of Directors and Universities UK. The research, part of Universities Week 2011, reveals wide ranging engagement driving innovation and employment as well as boosting local economies.

In addition, SMEs clearly seemed to be benefitting from the 3.7million days of Continuing Professional Development courses delivered by universities annually, with 37% attending lectures, conferences and public events; 12% working with universities to personally undertake professional development; and 7% using them to provide bespoke professional development for their employees.

Close working with universities on the employment pool also emerged as a trend with 27% of those surveyed employing recent graduates or post-graduates; 18% offering work experience opportunities or sandwich placements; 14% offering formal internships for undergraduates, graduates or post-graduates; and 10% even working on live business projects as part of a course.

Miles Templeman, Director General of the Institute of Directors, said: “This research uncovers an ever-growing network of universities and small businesses delivering genuine innovation on the frontline of British business. We hear all the time of exceptional ways that smaller companies are working closely with universities to mutual benefit. It’s good for our members, good for universities and good for the economy. We want to see these relationships grow even stronger.”