The higher education business community interaction survey records 159 graduate start-ups in Wales in 2005-06. That is, however, an underestimate, because it records only start-ups known to higher education institutions, and some graduates will set up companies after leaving higher education.
In north-east Wales, the North East Wales institute of higher education is concentrating on developing links with industry because we want to develop an entrepreneurial spirit in the area. Does my hon. Friend agree that the establishment of a university in north-east Wales for the first time in its history would make a huge contribution to the entrepreneurial spirit in the area, and will he do all he can to assist that step?
As my hon. Friend knows, both higher education policy and support for enterprise are matters for the Welsh Assembly Government, and the status of institutions is a matter for the relevant authorities in Wales. However, he is right to draw attention to the importance of universities working closely with business. I know that the North East Wales institute has a strong track record in working with the aerospace sector and a number of other important sectors in that part of the world. My hon. Friend will have to take the matter up with the Welsh Assembly Government directly, but I wish him and the institute every success.
Yesterday at Aberystwyth university there was a conference on the problems of female entrepreneurship and the growing disparity between the numbers of men and women establishing businesses. Notwithstanding what the Minister said about the devolved nature of these matters, may I urge him to contact those in charge of the female entrepreneurship programme at Aberystwyth university and see what lessons can be learned and applied across the United Kingdom?
The hon. Gentleman is certainly right about the fact that we want to encourage more entrepreneurship in our universities. According to a study published earlier this week by the National Council for Graduate Entrepreneurship, our universities need to do more. In fact they have transformed themselves over the past 10 years, but if I were asked whether more needed to be done my answer would obviously be yes. If we are to ensure that we have a successful, competitive United Kingdom economy in the future, we need our universities to work ever more closely with business.
I should be happy to make inquiries about Aberystwyth university’s entrepreneurship programme. Although the NCGE survey suggests more or less gender-equal access, I am sure that there is more we could do.