The UK’s leading universities are major forces for economic growth and their reach is both national and global, according to Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli.

The Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Glasgow was commenting on a report (published today February 28) that shows the research and commercialisation activities of the Russell Group institutions equated to £37.6billion in 2021/2022.

In Scotland, the economic impact is put at more than £2.3bn, supporting 21,630 jobs, according to London Economics that assessed what the group’s 24 research-intensive universities mean to the UK economy.

For every £1 of public funds invested in research at these institutions, more than £8.50 is generated for the UK economy.

Sir Anton welcomed the findings as evidence of the increasing value of the sector to economic growth and “world-changing potential” of their research and innovation activities.

He said: “Universities in and of themselves are drivers of inclusive economic growth.

“This report illustrates we are not only providing the innovative solutions and excellent research needed to tackle the challenges facing society, but we’re also key facilitators of Scotland’s economic development and productivity.

“Glasgow is very much at the forefront of several key sectors for the UK economy – from life sciences and digital innovations, to the creative economy and emerging critical technologies.“

He added: “As a major anchor institution, the University of Glasgow is rooted locally, but this report demonstrates our reach goes beyond national impact and shows our extensive global reach and world-changing potential.”

According to the report, research and commercialisation activities of the 24 universities – such as the creation of new spinout companies, wider knowledge exchange and Intellectual Property licensing – across all four nations helped to support more than a quarter of a million (254,000) jobs – twice as many as in the chemical and pharmaceutical manufacturing industries combined.

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.

On the back of the report, 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 leading research-intensive universities, notes that 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.

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”.

Professor Chris Day, Chair of the Russell Group and Vice-Chancellor and President of Newcastle University said: “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.

“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.”