Regional impact

With more than 23,000 students and around 3,500 members of staff, the University makes a significant contribution to the local economy. Our applied approach to education provides students with a balance of theoretical knowledge and practical experience which directly benefits the region's businesses, with more than half of Derby graduates remaining in the East Midlands three years after completing their studies.

Research England’s Knowledge Exchange Framework 2 (KEF) highlights our impact in the region. Benchmarked against the HE sector, we performed particularly well in:

Between April 2016 and September 2022, our portfolio of regional business support and innovation, funded by the European Structural and Investment Fund, led to:

An aeroplane turbine engine

Building business relationships

Through apprenticeships, work placements, Knowledge Transfer Partnerships and more, we are nurturing mutually beneficial relationships with local businesses; and through funding and support for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), we are helping businesses to innovate and grow as they recover from the impacts of the pandemic.

iconPart of Midlands Engine Health Mental Health and Productivity Pilot
iconStrategic Partnership with Bloc Digital
iconManagement Knowledge Transfer Partnership with Derbyshire Wildlife Trust
iconFirst Derbyshire Festival of Business
icon200 members of Low Carbon Network
icon2,400 apprentices engaged with

Growing innovation

Innovation is key to the growth and prosperity of our region. We have been involved in a number of projects and partnerships that fund and support businesses to develop creative strategies.

Among these is Enscite, a partnership with Aston University that supports the growth of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire SMEs in the rail, aerospace and automotive sectors.

From September 2021 to August 2022, 20 businesses enrolled with Enscite and took part in workshops. Funded by the EU’s European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), these were mainly delivered online and covered a range of topics including brand and marketing; operations and supply chain management; business strategy and planning; financial management and planning; and leading people positively.

Enscite also offers a Knowledge Exchange and Innovation (KEI) fund of up to £5,950 for enrolled businesses towards the costs of employing a graduate for a year-long project.

During the year we awarded six KEI grants totalling £24,061.53 which leveraged £72,184.59 in match funding.

Invest to Grow

The Invest to Grow programme provides grants and loans of between £15,000 and £250,000 to support private sector businesses to grow.

Since the programme began in 2015, it has made 290 awards, totalling £28.7 million, and has helped to create or safeguard 2,350 jobs. Among businesses who are benefiting from the scheme is Grimsby-based Fowler and Holden which provides foundry and engineering services to clients around the world, particularly in the rail and road network. Invest to Grow Funding is helping them address increased demand following the pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

Productivity through Innovation

Productivity through Innovation, another ERDF project, enables SMEs in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire to access funding, consultancy services and academic support to improve their productivity and market competitiveness. The project runs until March 2023 and so far it has:

Two people engaged in conversation

Supporting the journey to zero carbon

As the UK moves towards a zero carbon economy we are supporting businesses to reduce their carbon emissions and save money. Harnessing our business and research expertise and leveraging funding, we offer a range of projects and support packages for businesses in the East Midlands and beyond.

These include the DE-Carbonise project, the Net Zero Accelerator and the Green Entrepreneurs Programme, which is run in partnership with Derbyshire County Council. This offers funding to organisations developing and investing in green energy and carbon reduction schemes. In total across the programme’s funding strands around £672,000 has been allocated since it began in April 2021; projects include reinstating a hydro energy scheme and solutions for extending and improving battery performance in hybrid and electric vehicles.

Our Low Carbon Business Network supports growth in the low carbon sector by connecting SMEs who supply low carbon and environmental goods and services with advice from experts at the University and other sector specialists. Over the past year we have welcomed an additional 39 member companies, bringing the total to 200.

Our Knowledge Transfer Partnerships with Derbyshire Wildlife Trust are supporting the organisation as it works to be at the forefront of ecosystems services provision. The first of these partnerships, which will all involve a graduate associate, will be a Management KTP. This will help to develop a holistic business model that offers the Trust a mechanism to continue its nature recovery work, whilst generating income and fulfilling other social and environmental objectives, such as flood risk management and water quality improvement.

People in a room listening to a speaker

Strategic partnerships

Through our strategic partnerships we are building mutually beneficial relationships with local organisations, harnessing our research and expertise to support innovation and help them to develop and grow. These partnerships also benefit our students, providing opportunities for high-quality practical experience.

During the year we formalised our strategic partnership with East Midlands Chamber, which is now located in our Enterprise Centre in Derby. One of the partnership’s first joint initiatives was the Derbyshire Festival of Business which took place between September 2021 and April 2022. Designed to showcase and support the region and its businesses, the Festival organised 63 events, with 5,496 attendees. It engaged with 786 businesses from 33 counties, with 49% of those businesses engaged with coming from outside the region.

Other strategic partnerships have been developed over the year, with Bloc Digital and Down to Earth Derby.

Regional impact

We are using our resources and expertise to support a range of local and regional initiatives, from developing city businesses to improving mental health provision at work across the whole of the Midlands Engine area.

In Derby, we are partnering with Derby City Council on Ascend, a £5 million fund that helps businesses to prepare and implement growth plans that will benefit the city and region. To date we have supported 14 high-growth SMEs in the city – these are forecast to create 77 new jobs and have raised £1.5 million of external investment funding.

In the county, the Derbyshire Accelerator, part of the East Midlands Accelerator, has been supporting the recovery of rural businesses in the High Peak and Derbyshire Dales. Led by East Midlands Chamber, it is a place-based pilot project ahead of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, a government fund to support levelling up. This project was 84.27% publicly funded, with the remainder match funded by the University of Derby. In a short timescale (March to September, following an original target completion date of June), the project achieved:

Across the region, we have continued to work with our Midlands Engine partners on the Mental Health and Productivity Pilot. The aim is to support employers across the region - which extends from Lincolnshire to the Welsh borders - to understand the link between mental health and productivity by encouraging employees to use a package of tools and interventions that enable people to thrive in the workplace by improving their knowledge, capability and ultimately, productivity. The project has engaged with 90 businesses, trained 450 mental health first aiders, and reached approximately 23,000 staff.

Among the businesses involved are White Rose in Nottingham, Access Bookings in Lichfield and Telford-based Iconsys.

Empowering students and graduates

As an applied university, we work closely with employers to ensure our students are fully prepared for the world of work.

Our Derby Talent Fair in March was the first on-campus careers fair in two years. Targeted at final year students and recent graduates, it also included internship, year placement and voluntary opportunities for all students. 38 employers exhibited at the event, including Unilever, Mortgage Advice Bureau, Alstom and Experian.

Our close relationships with employers have also seen a range of successful internships through our DRIVEN programme, which provides funding and support to SMEs who want to take on students or graduates.

Our students have many opportunities to gain work experience on campus, including with the Union of Students, as student ambassadors and on site-based placements and internships. The pandemic presented another opportunity when we won the Derby City Council contract to host the Covid-19 asymptomatic test centre. This opened in January 2021, providing students from our health and social care and science courses with the opportunity to gain hands-on experience.

We have been delivering higher and degree apprenticeships for over ten years. We work with more than 400 employers and 2,400 apprentices, including police constables, nurses, healthcare assistants, teachers, managers, engineers and many more, with around 85% of these working in Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Staffordshire. In the 2021-2022 academic year approximately 400 apprentices completed their end point assessments. During the year we also worked with Rolls-Royce Submarines Ltd and partners to open the Nuclear Skills Academy at the iHub. This will train apprentices in a range of skills, including Engineering, Manufacturing and Business, to help sustain nuclear capability within the UK’s submarines programme. The Academy welcomed its first 200 trainees in September 2022.

Stimulating business

Nurturing fledgling businesses and encouraging the development of critical skills have been among our areas of focus over the last academic year.

The Smart and Inclusive Leadership (SAIL) programme has been designed in conjunction with local businesses to provide four unique two-day courses to develop leadership and management skills to drive productivity and growth. The target audience is SMEs in the D2N2 region. Over the year we have delivered 38 courses to 173 participants from 99 organisations, including Safe and Sound Derby, Inspire Nottingham, and Derby West Indian Community Association.

We have also been awarded a contract to deliver support to businesses in the East Midlands as part of the national Help to Grow: Management programme. Announced by Rishi Sunak in the March 2021 budget, it aims to support 30,000 businesses – originally planned to take place over three years, it has since been extended to four. Funding for the programme is through the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and delivery is through the UK network of Business Schools who have Small Business Charter accreditation. In the first year we delivered six cohorts, supporting 86 businesses, with those numbers set to grow in year two.

As the world of business continues to evolve, data management, numeracy and problem-solving analytical skills are key to growth and success. The Branch Out into STEM High Level Skills Programme, funded by the European Social Fund (ESF), supports participants employed in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire to develop these skills. The workshop programme, which launched in December 2021 and runs to the end of 2023, has trained over 30 participants from SMEs and sole traders across a wide sector of industries. The STEM team, based in the College of Science and Engineering, has also provided numerical skills training support to several community organisations across the wider region, using our innovative award-shortlisted software training platform.

Entrepreneurship is key to the region’s future success, and after a tough time during the pandemic, occupancy at our Banks Mill Studios innovation space returned to pre-Covid levels of around 95%. Our Business Incubation team supported 133 businesses; 25 of these were started within the year, 16 by University of Derby graduates. The team also launched a hot desk service at Banks Mill and created the first student residency opportunity. Five winners - Amy Vallance, Gemma Woolley, Sarah Blandford, Sofia Yala Rodrigues and Charlie Collins - were provided with access to a shared studio space with free rent for a year, during which they were able to develop their creative practice and explore self-employment while still studying.

Banks Mill also welcomed 1,472 visitors to events and exhibitions, including Derbyshire Open Arts and Banks Mill Open Studios.