University partnerships set to boost Staffordshire’s economic growth

Focused partnerships between universities and the county council will further strengthen Staffordshire’s economy, its economic growth and skills leaders have said.

The county council has formed a close working relationship with Keele University, Staffordshire University and Wolverhampton University as it aims to maximise the potential of each organisation to improve productivity among local businesses and local skills.

In a select committee report, economic growth leader Mark Winnington and learning and skills leader Ben Adams said formal university partnerships would ensure each organisation made the most effective use of their resources and also avoid duplication. The county council recently signed the New Keele Deal with Keele University which will lead to small businesses being able to utilise research and development facilities and tap into the university’s expertise. A £7million investment by the county council led to the development of Innovation Centre 5 at Keele Science and Innovation Park – a centre for high technology and professional services companies. A further commitment has been made by the county council to invest in Innovation Centre 6.

Ben Adams said: “We have near full employment in Staffordshire and so our drive now is very much on creating higher value jobs. By working more closely with universities we can achieve this. Businesses in Staffordshire are telling us they need more skilled workers to take advantage of the thousands of new jobs being created each year. This innovative approach to working with universities will provide our residents with the opportunities to get the skills businesses need. Furthermore, where there is a skilled workforce there is greater incentive to potential investors.”

Mark Winnington added: “Universities play a vital role in the economy and in Staffordshire we are working closely with the three organisations operating here. “Most notably we have set up a formal agreement with Keele to maximise its potential and make a real difference to people and businesses in the county. Universities can support business innovation and lead to greater productivity in addition to delivering the skills our employers need. Our approach in forming closer partnerships demonstrates a commitment to developing a knowledge economy in Staffordshire and this very much fits in to the emerging themes of the UK Industrial Strategy.”

Wolverhampton University will soon have an operational base at the county council’s Staffordshire Place 2 building, while Staffordshire University operates from various county locations. Both are members of the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Education Trust, which is part of the local enterprise partnership.