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Research Partnerships

Volume 552: debated on Thursday 8 November 2012

5. What support his Department has provided to university and business research partnerships in the last 12 months. (127300)

We want to see the best possible links between universities and businesses. The Chancellor recently tripled public investment in our UK research partnership investment fund, which promotes investment in shared research and development facilities on our campuses. Winning bids must include sponsorship from businesses or charities, so the scheme will deliver more than £1 billion of new R and D investment in total.

I welcome my right hon. Friend’s response and highlight for him the success we are achieving in Chester with the Riverside innovation centre and work between businesses and the university of Chester. May I ask him to visit the innovation centre in the near future?

I have happy memories of visiting the university of Chester when Opposition spokesman and so will certainly try to visit as a Minister. My hon. Friend describes just one example of the reason why the World Economic Forum recently placed the UK second out of 144 countries for the quality of university and business collaboration in R and D.

Does the Minister agree that there is so much in Lord Heseltine’s review, “No Stone Unturned”, that it shines a light not only on the eyes we see under the rock, but on the policies that affect the relationship between universities and the business and research communities and the entrepreneurship we need in all our regions to make this country economically vibrant?

Lord Heseltine’s report was excellent. The message that we need to see growth across the entire country is absolutely correct. It is also correct that universities across the country are crucial drivers of local economic growth, and that is one of the many reasons we are supporting them.

In past years, Higher Education Funding Council for England letters have never done much for Wiltshire. Will the Minister be flexible in his approach to student number controls on universities seeking to co-locate with high-tech businesses, and so bring university education to our fine county?

That is an ingenious piece of local lobbying on which I congratulate my hon. Friend. I will certainly bear that in mind. We are continuing to reduce the number controls that we inherited from the previous Government; we have been able to achieve that successfully through our reforms. Now, one in three students is choosing a university without number controls, and we want that to go further.