How the University is central to economic resurgence

Forward thinking, innovative projects and practical expertise in working with business are making the University of Leicester one of the main drivers of the 'Midlands Engine for Growth' - the term used by the Chancellor, George Osborne.

As a mark of its commitment, the University is the chief sponsor of the first Leicester Business Festival, running from 26 October to 6 November, with 84 events across eight business sectors being held across the city and county.

The University estimates that its presence contributes about £750m into the local economy every year, much of the impact coming from its numerous collaborative relationships with businesses, large and small.

Leicester has set up a number of support programmes such as G-STEP, Innovation Partnerships, Space IDEAS Hub, ASDEC and IRSA. Through the Innovation through the Research Support Accelerator (IRSA), the University employed 20 postgraduates as researchers to deliver project-based applied R&D support to 20 East Midlands small to medium-sized businesses. The range of projects tackled were as diverse as an analysis of pubs and air quality monitoring through small sensor networks, to the relationship between undercover police and animal rights activists and mapping the impact of oil palm production on forests in Indonesia and Malaysia.

The ASDEC – Advanced Structural Dynamics Evaluation Centre, project recently scooped  the Overall Winner 2015 at the Research Councils UK and PraxisUnico Impact Awards. ASDEC applies vibration to structures and uses lasers to measure the bending and twisting that results. It has particular application in the automotive industry – an important sector in the region. But it also delivers value in a range of other areas such as the design of musical instruments, or the design of hearing aids especially for children. The process of 3D laser vibration is not new in itself. But the availability of it commercially in the UK is.

Another example of how companies can work with universities in the midlands is through the new Energy Research Accelerator, a centre of excellence for energy research established through Midlands Innovation which includes the six research-intensive midlands universities (Aston, Birmingham, Leicester, Loughborough, Nottingham and Warwick) in collaboration with the British Geological Survey.

This project builds on Midlands industrial expertise and will form a major pillar in the ‘midlands engine’ research ecosystem. The initial phase has attracted £60m of government funding and funds for a second phase are being discussed.

This autumn's Business Festival was created by Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership.