Engaging with business and building back better

With over 3,000 staff and 23,000 students, the University contributes more than £600m annually to the East Midlands economy and supports 6,000+ jobs. Over half of Derby graduates remain in the region up to three years after they complete their studies, and staff continue to work with local partners to attract and retain talent by promoting Derby as a destination city for students and graduates.

During the last academic year the local business community has shown great resilience, and as the city and county continues with plans for recovery from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic the University is at the heart of that process too.

Derby city skyline with cathedral

Business engagement at Derby

We remain committed to helping businesses capitalise on opportunities for the future prosperity of our city and county, and work with them to identify current and future talent and initiate collaboration between them, the University, policy makers and advisory organisations to build a strong and inclusive economy.

icon£2 million Green Entrepreneurs Programme to support green economic recovery across county
iconStrategic Partnership with East Midlands Chamber
icon£5 million business growth Ascend programme
iconHelp to Grow: Management scheme 90% funded by the UK government
iconNew net zero carbon Derby Business School
icon1,750 apprentices to start the new academic year

Driving innovation

This academic year, the University earned a high ranking in the Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF), a key national measure of how higher education contributes to society, overseen by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

Derby was placed in the top ten per cent of universities in two key categories: ‘Local Growth and Regeneration’ and ‘Working with Business’, as a result of its approach to working with industry and a number of initiatives linked to its Local Growth Strategy.

One major area of business support has been Invest to Grow, which offers companies grants and loans of up to £250,000 to innovate, grow and create jobs. By delivering £26m to local companies, the Invest to Grow scheme has unlocked a further £98m of private sector funding and met its job creation target of 1,900 posts in SMEs four years ahead of schedule.

Enabling business to decarbonise, and reduce costs as well as carbon emissions, has also been a key element of the strategy. Working with Derbyshire County and Derby City councils, the University runs the DE-Carbonise scheme, offering low carbon technology expertise to businesses.

The University, in partnership with Derbyshire County Council, also launched the Green Entrepreneurs Programme in March 2021, a £2 million fund to support green economic recovery across Derbyshire. The programme offers financial assistance to businesses and organisations interested in developing and investing in green energy and carbon reduction schemes.

Grants of £20,000 have since been awarded to a number of initiatives to help get them off the ground, including:

Strategic partnerships

In December 2020, the University entered a strategic partnership with East Midlands Chamber which has delivered a number of positive outcomes to both internal and external stakeholders.

Working together, the University and the Chamber have collaborated on several bids, including a successful £1.49m submission to the Community Renewal Fund to deliver an Accelerator programme, and planning the inaugural Derbyshire Festival of Business, which took place in October 2021.

Collectively, the Chamber and University embarked on a research project linked to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) that found the proportion of companies that are involved in CSR activity has grown from 60% in 2017 to 66% in 2020. The report was announced at the Chamber’s CSR (corporate social responsibility) Summit in May, which the University sponsored. The summit explored ideas on how to encourage more businesses to get involved with meaningful community work.

Students have also had the opportunity to engage with the business community. Two students from the College of Business, Law and Social Sciences, joined the Board of Generation Next, which was launched as a network for young professionals across the East Midlands, while 29 students were given free membership to Generation Next and a further 19 tenants of the University’s incubator businesses, many of them graduates of the University, benefited from free membership of the Chamber.

The Chamber also agreed a six-month paid placement for a university graduate to become its Sustainable East Midlands Policy Officer and a one-year paid work placement for an undergraduate Graphic Design student.

At the heart of our city's recovery

A new £5 million business growth programme was unveiled this year as part of the city’s coronavirus economic recovery strategy run by Derby City Council alongside the University.

Ascend will support up to 40 local businesses over the next two years and aims to create over 500 jobs. Businesses chosen to participate in the programme will be able to access bespoke support and advice in three key areas, to help develop and implement business growth: growth readiness, investment readiness and growth projects.

Commenting at the time of launch, Professor Kathryn Mitchell DL, University Vice-Chancellor, said: "I am very pleased that the University is part of this exciting collaboration to propel the potential of businesses in our city and create the opportunities which our students will identify as integral to their decision to study in Derby."

Supporting businesses to scale up

In further recognition of its strong reputation in supporting businesses, the University was selected as one of the first Business Schools in the UK to deliver the government’s Help to Grow: Management programme, designed in partnership with the Chartered Association of Business Schools (CABS) to support senior managers of small and medium sized businesses to boost their business’s performance, resilience, and long-term growth.

Professor Kamil Omoteso, Pro Vice-Chancellor Dean of the College of Business, Law and Social Science at the University, said: “We are delighted to be delivering this new management scheme through our Derby Business School. Our academics have a wealth of knowledge and experience, and are ideally placed to support small businesses to help upskill their workforce, innovate and realise their growth ambitions.”

Vision for iconic city centre business school announced

In May 2021, the University’s vision to build a new, iconic business school in the centre of the city was announced.

Set to open in September 2024, the building is projected to be the study base for over 6,000 students by 2030, who will benefit from a transformative learning environment delivering teaching, research, innovation and skills aligned to regional, national and global needs.

The landmark building is proposed to be net zero carbon in construction and operation, aligning to the University’s sustainability strategies and its low carbon expertise and research agenda. It will be located at Ford Street in Derby on a University-owned site opposite One Friar Gate Square – home to the School of Law and Social Sciences.

The new business school’s enterprise objectives will also ensure it is central to the University’s ongoing commitment and contribution to the inclusive and regenerative growth of Derby city and its surrounding area.

As well as supporting student growth and diversity, and increasing physical capacity to accommodate the University’s future space needs, the new business school will also increase research and development, innovation and enterprise collaboration between students, entrepreneurs, D2N2 businesses and business school staff to enable business growth and unlock new market opportunities internationally.

University hit Local Growth Fund targets ahead of deadline

During the last academic year, the University completed its D2N2 Local Growth Fund (LGF) project to develop the Chesterfield University Campus, which started back in November 2015. The £3.48 million investment from the LGF, plus investment from the University, has enabled higher level skills opportunities for school leavers and adult learners to be delivered, many of which are the first in their family to go to university, and supported the economic growth and resilience of businesses in Chesterfield.

Six months before the deadline, the University hit all LGF output targets set for project, including learner numbers, short courses completed, job creation, knowledge transfer partnerships, and refurbished learning space. A testament to the hard work of teaching staff, the commercial team and strategic partners, including Destination Chesterfield, Chesterfield Borough Council, Chesterfield Royal Hospital, and Derbyshire Voluntary Action.

Skills for the future

As a University, Derby is unique in having a further education division, which enables us to support our employer clients for apprenticeships and skills from level 2 all the way up to level 7.

We had 672 new starts in the 20/21 academic year which resulted in the University having 1,750 apprentices by the start of the new academic year including the numbers from our Buxton and Leek College.

Our largest sector for apprenticeships is the public sector, as we have approximately 1,000 apprentices from NHS Trusts, local authorities, police constabularies, schools, and colleges. We also deliver apprenticeships in carpentry and joinery, engineering, minerals, hospitality and culinary, and management with 88% of our apprentices working in the D2N2 (LEP region area).

We have developed blended approaches to our apprenticeships to make it easier for our apprentices to complete the off the job training more flexibly, providing access to degree level professions for those who may not have been able to consider this previously. The University was the first in the country to provide the Police Constable Degree Apprentice (PCDA) scheme and 36 students completed the course this year.

This flexible blended approach also facilitates the upskilling of existing employees, providing progression opportunities to enhance their personal and professional development while meeting the requirements of the business.

Upskilling SMEs

The University has worked over 400 local SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) in the past year in areas such as leadership, upskilling staff, and sourcing graduate talent. We have academic expertise to help companies and civic institutions achieve their Net Zero targets, to attract investment and to submit bids for funding.

Advanced skills programme and Small Business Leadership Programme 

The Advanced Skills Programme (ASP), part of the European Social Fund (ESF) High Level Skills programme, and the Small Business Leadership Programme, part of a government funded initiative, have both helped leaders and employees of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) develop their skills and grow. 

Andrea Shuttleworth, who is involved in recruitment for Global Brands, participated in two short online courses through ASP to help develop her knowledge of different areas of the business. Similar to many other businesses, the pandemic had created challenges as Andrea explains:

“We have had to furlough many of our staff, which has meant that it can be difficult to stay connected and keep up morale. But with our employees having more time on their hands, we saw the programme as an ideal opportunity to re-connect while developing the skills we need to move through the challenges of the pandemic.”

Making UK’s railways cleaner and greener

In October 2020, a new challenge for SME businesses was launched to help make transporting goods on the UK’s railways cleaner and greener.

The University teamed up with Rail Supply GroupRail Forum Midlands and Tarmac to spearhead a challenge to identify Opportunities for Decarbonising Freight.

SMEs were invited to put forward ideas for solutions to a task linked to the Government’s Rail Sector Deal, which gave the industry a number of targets back in 2018, including delivering a sustainable rail network and promoting SME growth through collaboration.

Professor Warren Manning, Provost – Innovation and Research at the University of Derby, is one of the members of the steering group overseeing Rail Sector Deal pilot projects in the Midlands.

He said: “The University is very much at the forefront of the work being done regionally and across specific industry sectors to cut the nation’s carbon output. Working with the Rail Forum and Tarmac, as well as a number of other industry partners, we are keen to show that rail has got enormous potential to help meet the UK’s zero carbon emissions target date of 2050.

“The evidence is there to show how much ‘cleaner’ it is than transporting goods over long distances by road. However, to meet the rail sector deal aim of a sustainable rail network, we need to find ways of addressing a range of complex issues facing our rail network which not only incentivise the use of rail for a larger share of the nation’s freight journeys, but also make great strides in the pursuit of carbon-free transport."

Supporting start-ups

Innovation Hothouse, a co-working space at the Enterprise Centre in Derby, was opened this year to support self-employed students and enterprising graduates from the University. During the pandemic clients were supported through our virtual community, however the physical workspace has now reopened and is available to use as hot desk space. 

Derby Graduate Erica Horne recently joined the Banks Mill community and is also part of the Innovation Hothouse. Erica runs CAD for Fashion which specialises in CAD training and tuition for the fashion and textiles industry. Speaking about the network, she said:

“I’m looking forward to being part of a network of other small businesses. This past year has been isolating for many of us so to be part of this community feels like perfect timing. The changes to my business model means I need to update my business plan and start thinking about where I want to go next. The support and advice available from the innovation Hothouse is very much welcomed at this stage.”