Key lessons and recommendations

Key strengths

The Invest to Grow Programme has demonstrated the following key strengths:

Over 300 projects have received financial support, enabling them to deliver growth via more than 2,500 job outcomes, productivity increases estimated at c£9m, and an estimated £63m net GVA generated or safeguarded. Businesses have benefited from a wide range of other benefits in addition to these core economic outcomes.

The £12.9m grant funding awarded by Invest to Grow (at the time of analysis) has formed part of an overall expenditure totalling £138.5m, whereby for every £1 awarded by the programme £9.74 is invested by the private sector.

Positive impacts include providing a key conduit for increased business engagement, contribution to key University performance indicators and strategic priorities, and the delivery of reputational benefits.

The programme’s longevity should not be underestimated and is unusual for business support programmes, whereby Invest to Grow has maintained a consistent programme team (as well as a relatively stable SIP) over its 9-year lifetime to date. This has not only enabled ongoing improvements and process maturity, but has meant a longer-term approach to investment decisions, programme management and the achievement to targets.

This has been enabled by a highly skilled and diligent programme delivery team and an expert Strategic Investment Panel – further enhanced by consistency of personnel.

Partly enabled by its longevity, Invest to Grow benefits from an expert programme management function. This provides significant potential for the ongoing development of the programme, whilst also enabling opportunities for the University to manage other interventions.

Within the remit of its initial government funding, the longevity of the programme alongside its programme management competency has enabled a personalised and flexible approach to delivering financial support – with accompanying benefits related to successful outcomes and very low defaults.

Invest to Grow has remained operational and available during an extremely challenging period, regarding both external economic challenges (e.g. Covid-19, Brexit, cost of living crisis) and policy changes (significant reductions in business support provision). Moving forward, it provides a unique and critical element of business support within a greatly reduced and fluctuating ecosystem.


The following provide opportunities for Invest to Grow to further improve its offer and impact in the future.

Whilst there are many examples of Invest to Grow enabling businesses to access and utilise wider support within the University (leading to ongoing collaboration), there are clear opportunities to improve the clarity and coordination of this offer. In doing so the University could ensure increasingly effective account management of the businesses it engages with, therefore reaping further benefits from collaboration.

Following the completion of the RGF monitoring period, Invest to Grow will be afforded greater flexibility regarding its approach to delivery (dependent on any future funding sources). This will create opportunities to increasingly target (via either the whole programme or specific strands of it) core priorities, themes or sectors of the University or key regional bodies (e.g. the East Midlands Combined Authority).

Again, in relation to the completion of RGF monitoring, the programme will have the freedom to refocus or refine the outcome targets it requires from the funding it awards. This could again be aligned to regional priorities or the specific business environment. For example, an increasing focus on supporting businesses to adopt digital technology may be more aligned to productivity targets rather than job creation targets.

The programme’s increased flexibility also provides the opportunity to review its geographical remit. This will be dependent on its core aims. For example, if the aim of the programme is primarily to generate additional business engagement into the University and enable associated impacts, the geographical remit could be reduced so it is focused on the areas close to the institution. An alternative could be to provide a strand of funding focused on specific growth areas/corridors.

With changing outcome targets there may be an opportunity to develop increasingly varied risk profiles and funding mechanisms for businesses (i.e. within separate strands of the programme). For example, a strand for smaller or newer businesses, a strand for innovation or R&D-specific projects or a strand offering equity finance.