A new report says top UK universities added almost £900million to the North East economy.

The report from London Economics, assessing the economic impact of Russell Group universities, which includes Newcastle University and Durham University found the impact of their research and commercialisation activities added up to £37.6billion overall across the UK.

Analysis showed that the research and commercialisation activities, such as the creation of new spin-out companies, wider knowledge exchange and Intellectual Property licensing, helped to support close to 10,000  jobs in the region. Across the UK, more than a quarter of a million jobs, twice as many as in the chemical and pharmaceutical manufacturing industries combined, were supported by all 24 Russell Group universities together.

The report shows how the universities contributed to economies in every single region and nation of the country, delivering research and innovation in sectors ranging from medicine to sustainable energy and the creative industries. This is in addition to the economic impact generated by wider productivity spill overs, teaching and education-related activities, and the fees and spending from international students.


Now, the Russell Group is urging the Government to maximise the economic potential of the UK’s research-intensive universities by ensuring at least 3% of GDP is invested into R&D by 2030.

The Group, which represents 24 leading research universities, says such a commitment by current and future Governments would not only bring the UK in line with other top research nations but also deliver further benefits to the UK economy in years to come.

In a letter to the Chancellor ahead of the Spring Budget, the Group asked the Government to use the Budget to deliver on its existing commitment to invest £20bn in R&D by 2024/25.

Professor Karen O’Brien, Vice-Chancellor of Durham University, said: “This report demonstrates the significant economic value and wider impact of research and innovation at universities.

“We aim to ensure the presence of a world-leading university delivers positive outcomes across our city, region and beyond. We do this through our innovative and impactful research, structured support for business innovation, and research commercialisation and knowledge transfer. This creates new businesses and jobs, supports improved productivity, skill development and decarbonisation of our society.

“Through practical actions and collaboration such as those outlined in this report, Durham University and our partners in the Russell Group are committed to continuing to strengthen the work we do to contribute to positive change and economic growth.”

Professor Chris Day, Chair of the Russell Group and Vice-Chancellor and President of Newcastle University said: “This report reveals how Russell Group university research and commercialisation activities generated nearly £38 billion for the UK economy in 2021/22, supporting more than a quarter of a million jobs. This is in addition to the impact of our teaching and learning activities.

“Continuing to produce world-leading research and innovation in sectors ranging from medicine to sustainable energy and the creative industries is imperative to the long-term development of future generations and the growth of our economy.

The Northern Echo:  Newcastle University Newcastle University (Image: Newcastle University)

“With every £1 of public money invested generating £8.50, there is a real opportunity for the Government to further leverage the knowledge economy for growth.”

Dr Tim Bradshaw, Chief Executive of the Russell Group, said: “These findings demonstrate the immense value our universities add in every single corner of the UK. The data clearly shows that investing in R&D and innovation at Russell Group universities reaps huge benefits for local economies and communities, with hundreds of thousands of jobs created and new enterprise supported, thanks to high quality research across a range of disciplines.

“Russell Group breakthroughs are helping accelerate efforts to reach Net Zero responsibly, transforming the way UK companies do business and providing the NHS with new ways to save lives and cut waiting lists. Good choices and sustained investment from government has been crucial to this success.

“Now is the time to build on this success with robust funding to future-proof the skills and talent pipeline that is so vital to the growth of our economy – and to ensure that the research and innovation that originates within universities will continue to make a tangible, positive impact on people’s lives”.