Business Engagement

Regional impact

Working with our industry and academic partners, we support growth and prosperity across our region. From championing employee wellbeing to nurturing new enterprise and providing industry-specific expertise, we are contributing to our region’s profile and reputation as a centre for business and innovation nationally and internationally.

Knowledge Exchange

We use our expertise and research to support businesses across the East Midlands. In Research England’s third Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF3), the University was assessed as having ‘very high engagement’ in the Local Growth & Regeneration and CPD & Graduate Start-Ups categories, placing us in the top 20% of UK higher education providers.

The Local Growth & Regeneration outcome recognises our continuing support for businesses in the region, through initiatives such as the Smart and Inclusive Leadership (SAIL) programme, which works with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to develop leadership and management skills to drive productivity and growth.

Our varied portfolio of short courses and other resources contributes to the CPD & Graduate Start-Ups outcome. This includes business and management and post-qualification training in areas including health and education.

We also achieved a ‘high engagement’ (top 40%) rating for Public & Community Engagement.

Over the year, through our various knowledge exchange projects we supported 463 SMEs, helping to create 20 jobs and 207 internships or graduate roles. We also engaged in 75 research and innovation collaborations.

Following our involvement in the successful Mental Health and Productivity Pilot, we launched the Work Health Hub. Drawing on up-to-date research on mental health in the workplace, the hub offers practical resources for managers, leaders, mental health first aiders and HR professionals to help them support staff effectively.

Derbyshire Festival of Business

The second annual Derbyshire Festival of Business continued to foster business and skills development, as well as highlighting Derbyshire as a region to do business. 104 events took place, attracting 5,290 attendees. These included showcase events such as Banks Mill Open Studios, as well as outreach events with school/college and university students, masterclasses and the Derbyshire Business Awards.

People working in an office

Working together

By sharing our knowledge and forging strong relationships with businesses across the region and further afield, we are creating opportunities for our students, graduates and partners to grow and succeed. 

iconWork Health Hub launched
icon3 new Strategic Partnership Agreements
iconSmall Business Charter reaccreditation achieved
iconSecond Derbyshire Festival of Business attracted 5,290 attendees
icon151 DRIVEN internships created
icon180 employers attended 5 flagship events on campus
icon463 SMEs supported through knowledge exchange projects
icon75 research and innovation collaborations through knowledge exchange projects
icon£500,000 in grants allocatedthrough the Enscite project

Growing innovation

The region’s growth depends on innovation and creativity, particularly in the journey towards zero carbon. We have been involved in a number of projects and partnerships that fund and support businesses to innovate. 

Some schemes were completed over the last year, leaving a lasting legacy for local businesses and the region’s economy. Among these were:

While these projects have now been completed, we are still supporting innovation in the region through a range of ongoing programmes, including:

Two people looking at a model turbine on a desk with a whiteboard behind containing a technical diagram
Engineering consultancy Scitek is among businesses supported by Productivity through Innovation

Strategic partnerships

As the only university in Derbyshire, we recognise the key role we play in supporting the city, county and region’s long-term economic growth and prosperity. One of the ways we do this is through strategic partnerships with regional stakeholders and businesses. As well as developing our partnerships with East Midlands Chamber, Bloc Digital, Dubrek Studios, Derbyshire Voluntary Action and Goldbox Productions during the year, we entered into new agreements with the Devonshire Group, the Institute of Quarrying and Derbyshire County Cricket Club.

Derbyshire Voluntary Action

Through our partnership with Derbyshire Voluntary Action, we are providing support for Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) organisations while also creating meaningful opportunities for our students. During the year we supported 10 events and conferences, welcomed 350 students and 21 VCSEs to a Voluntary Sector Marketplace event, supported 12 VCSEs to offer student placements, with a further 12 VCSEs offering live briefs and volunteering opportunities.

East Midlands Chamber 

Our strategic partnership with East Midlands Chamber is going from strength to strength, with the Chamber continuing to support the delivery of the Derbyshire Festival of Business. This year’s Festival featured over 100 business-focused events, with a highlight being the Chamber’s business expo in Buxton.  

The University is the headline sponsor of the Chamber’s Generation Next initiative, with students from the Business School securing places on the Generation Next Board. We were also the main sponsors and contributors to the Chamber’s Sustainability Summit, which took place in September and was attended by 150+ business representatives.

The Chamber uses the University’s Enterprise Centre as its Derby headquarters, from where it liaises closely with our Business Engagement team. 

Bloc Digital

The partnership with Bloc Digital is an excellent example of the range of mutual support that can be created from these agreements. We supported the Bloc team to submit bids worth £353,765 against a target of £250,000, and as a partnership we were successful in securing all of this funding. Bloc took on a number of Derby students and graduates to internships, industry placements and full and part-time positions, and recorded 130 hours of input into University activities, including creating a VR headset for the Business School and work to establish the East Midlands Institute of Technology.

A classroom with computers and a large screen with the words East Midlands Institute of Technology
Through our strategic partnership, we have worked with Bloc Digital to establish the East Midlands Institute of Technology

Dubrek Studios

One of the benefits of strategic partnerships for our students is the opportunity it presents for relevant, hands-on experience. Dubrek Studios, a recording studio and music venue housed in University premises, has provided opportunities for public performance and hands-on technical experience across Music Therapy, Music Production and Sound & Light Engineering courses among others.

Empowering students and graduates

Our strong connections with employers across a wide range of industries give our students and graduates crucial opportunities to develop relevant skills and experience. The relationship is mutually beneficial, creating a pipeline of talented and creative individuals to support business growth and prosperity within the region and beyond.

This year the University’s Employer Engagement team has updated its digital resources for employers, including a new toolkit with support materials to help businesses reach, recruit and retain students and graduates.

Five flagship events provided opportunities for students and graduates to network with employers and find out more about volunteering, work experience, internships, year placement and graduate roles. These events attracted more than 1,500 students and graduates and over 180 employers.

Our DRIVEN internship programme continued to support SMEs to offer internships to our students and graduates. In 2022/23, 125 80-hour and 31 graduate internships were created.

Stimulating business

We offer practical support for small and fledgling businesses to establish and grow. In 2022/23 our Business Incubation team supported 146 businesses, of which 41 started within the year. Twenty of these were started by University of Derby students and graduates.

Banks Mill Studios is our incubation space for creative businesses. During the year, we were delighted to see a number of businesses leaving the site to expand into larger commercial premises.

We offer a variety of training programmes to help small businesses develop key skills. These include the Smart and Inclusive Leadership (SAIL) programme, Branch out into STEM and Reskill and Recover. Over the past year these programmes have delivered 101 courses to participants from 288 different organisations.

The University has played a key role in shaping and developing the national programme, curriculum content and alumni network, for Help to Grow: Management, which was announced by Rishi Sunak in his March 2021 Budget. These 12-week hybrid programmes support managers of SMEs to boost their business’s performance. 121 participants have completed the full course with the University of Derby and have been invited to join the exclusive National and local Alumni group for course participants.