University Enterprise Zones

Time limited funding call: Closing date 11 April 2019

For proposals of between £500,000 and £1.5 million

Overarching government priorities for UEZs

Universities today have a critical role to play supporting local and regional economies - disseminating knowledge, sharing innovation with industry, supporting entrepreneurs and providing communities with the skilled workforces they need.

Many of our universities already do this well, but we want to support more universities to follow this path by establishing new UEZs focused on generating and commercialising innovation and delivering skills that best serve the key sectors in their local and regional economy.

UEZs provide a focal point where universities and businesses work together in a business-friendly environment. We expect universities to demonstrate strong support from the private sector in their application and detail how their proposals support the strengths of the local and/or regional economy. We want UEZs to operate in a way that will leverage innovation from universities into the private sector and establish or expand existing specialisms of real benefit to those businesses. Successful proposals should demonstrate strong local partnerships.

Recognising the tailored nature of the proposals that are likely to be submitted, there is a range of support that can be offered including capital funding to support the creation of UEZs, where universities can successfully make the case for these.

Interim Programme Evaluation Report

This report is an interim evaluation (PDF, 1MB) of the £20 million Research England Development fund (RED fund) investment in twenty University Enterprise Zones (UEZs) to extend/develop university incubation (capital and revenue)

The report provides evidence of the impact to date of the UEZs programme, including how UEZs add value in the wider incubation/acceleration landscape. The report draws conclusions on achievements of UEZs located in different types of places (for example, more/less developed areas), with a technology/industry focus vs generic, or by different types of business or types of support.

The Evaluation also looked to analyse impacts on the programme of COVID-19 lockdowns and look to future opportunities and challenges for UEZs to contribute to economic recovery.


What's the background to UEZs?

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills invested £15 million of capital funding in 2015 to establish four pilot UEZs, in Nottingham, Liverpool, Bradford and Bristol.

UEZs are specific geographical sites where universities and business work together to increase local growth and innovation.

The zones in the pilot aimed to:

  • encourage universities to strengthen their roles as strategic partners in local growth to engage with local enterprise partnerships (LEPs), building on existing capabilities and partnership
  • stimulate development of incubator or 'grow-on' space for small businesses in locations that encourage businesses to interact with universities and to innovate.

What are the details of the UEZ call?

The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) have provided Research England with an additional £5 million to advance the UEZ programme. Research England will allocate up to £5 million additional funding from the RED Fund, making up to a total of £10 million available to support projects in response to this call, subject to the quality of proposals. We expect to make up to ten awards.

We wish to support a high quality portfolio of projects that advance the government's UEZ programme, contribute to successful higher education provider (HEP) delivery of business incubation and further good practice. To achieve this, we are seeking proposals where the academic strengths of the HEP align with the sector strengths of the local/regional area. These innovative proposals should leverage R&D and expertise stemming from the HEP and industry, generating partnerships to drive local growth. We would particularly encourage applications from those providers who have not previously benefited from significant public funding for local HEP-business collaborations.

We are seeking to support projects to be completed by August 2020 linked to incubation, although in exceptional cases we may consider proposals for modest extensions beyond that deadline.

Funds are available to support capital and/or recurrent expenditures. Capital projects might include refurbishments or additional equipment for existing incubators. Recurrent projects might address pump priming of innovative approaches to enterprise support for an incubator and its tenants and/or facilitating links between the incubator and its tenants with the academic offer of the HEP. They may also include costs of planning and development of a new incubator, though this must make a significant step toward delivery, so that there is a significant output at end of grant.

Collaboration with local partners will be a very important aspect in proposing the development of a new incubator and we expect universities to take advantage of the support and flexibilities provided by local authorities. For example, it may be appropriate to consider the use of simplified planning processes through the use of a Local Development Order or other suitable mechanism.

Proposals should provide a description of the existing incubator, if appropriate, or infrastructure that the project will develop, so we can understand how additional funding will add value. This includes details such as its scale and nature, tenant policies and enterprise and academic support offered and its funding sources. We are compiling evidence on the current state of HEP incubation and acceleration to inform future policy and funding, and details from RED Fund proposals will help inform this.

What are the assessment criteria?

Successful proposals will:

  • demonstrate that they further the goals of UEZs, expanding the programme and providing innovative approaches to achieve its objectives
  • have a strong relationship or partnership with key local businesses and/or LEPs and other relevant local partners
  • align the academic strengths of the HEP with the sector strengths of their local/regional area
  • show significant additional leverage, particularly from private and local sources
  • develop and share best practice on business incubation and have insights on likely impacts
  • contribute to evidence for longer term policy and investment
  • be near or at delivery by the end of the funding award period for their proposed project
  • represent value for money by evidencing:
    1. a demonstrably innovative approach
    2. additionality on top of existing provision / activity
    3. prospects of sustainability.

We also expect to see evidence of co-operation from the relevant local planning authority regarding consideration of appropriate proposals in collaboration with the relevant authority or authorities that will deliver simplified planning procedures within the zone, for example by means of a local development order, a local development corporation or similar delivery body or other suitable mechanism.

UEZ projects are now underway. There are no further funding calls for UEZ planned.

A UEZ Call FAQs document (PDF) is available.