The University of Nottingham’s business and innovation services could play a key role in creating more start-up firms which will boost the local economy.
Dr George Baxter, the former pharmaceuticals industry executive who now heads its business services, says encouraging students to set up their own enterprise is a major priority in the years ahead.
Based at the Innovation Park on the Jubilee Campus, the University’s Business Engagement and Innovation Services division provides expertise to firms large and small.
It boasts relationships with a number of major businesses in key industries like aerospace and pharmaceuticals.
But it also helps small and medium-sized businesses, and its role in encouraging entrepreneurship looks set to grow through a £5.2m investment in a new technology Entrepreneurship centre, which was opened by Small Business Minister Anna Soubry.
Dr Baxter’s career has included spells with industrial giants ICI and AstraZeneca, and the North West Development Agency, where he worked on the redevelopment of a research and development facility at Darsbury into a science and innovation campus.
More recently he was director of research and enterprise at the University of Salford.
Dr Baxter said: “The scale of the opportunity here is significant because Nottingham is a Russell Group university which has a genuinely international brand and a large research portfolio. It’s a name which opens doors.
“I want to develop links here with businesses of all sizes – not only the large corporates but also the SMEs.
“Nottingham is unusual in having such a large SME en gagement policy and it’s particularly important to the local economy.”
Its Ingenuity network has 1,900 SMEs on its books and holds regular events which attract significant numbers of small firms.
“We have a very big opportunity to make a difference to entrepreneurship, and the new centre will be home to that,” said Dr Baxter. “I’d like to see our students launching 200-300 businesses a year, and I’d like most of them to stay local because that would be a great way to boost the economy.”
The university’s Jubilee Campus has become a major focus of economic activity in the city, with major research facilities related to some of its key industrial relationships.
It works with global giants such as Rolls-Royce, AVIC and GlaxoSmithKline, which is developing a £20m carbon neutral laboratory for sustainable chemistry at the campus.
“I would definitely like to see more international relationships with large corporations,” Dr Baxter said.
The university’s research portfolio could also yield some significant commercial opportunities, with cancer testing business Oncimmune and plant science business Azotic Technologies looking to commercialise cutting-edge work.