Local growth and regeneration

Whilst the University’s reach extends well beyond the immediate area, our main focus in supporting local growth has been Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire.

Whilst the University’s reach extends well beyond the immediate area, our main focus in supporting local growth has been Stoke-on-Trent & Staffordshire.

In 2017 we agreed the Keele Deal | Economy, a £70m plan developed with partners to realise the benefits from research and innovation, generate growth, improve healthcare and put our region at the heart of the transition to a lower carbon economy.

This led to one of the largest university-led regeneration programmes in England, created a world- leading smart energy demonstrator, four new innovation centres and supported 627 SMEs. By the end of 2020 it will have generated an additional £16m for the local economy and by 2021 will be saving 4,096 tonnes of CO2 emissions a year.

Local Growth and Regeneration in our KE Strategy 2016-20

Whilst the University’s economic reach extends well beyond the immediate area, our main focus in local growth and regeneration has been Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire. The increasingly productive relationships established with the Local Enterprise Partnership, business leaders and the local authorities has led to the creation of one of the largest university-led regeneration programmes in England (3rd largest among 134 universities nationally in 18/19, rising from 21st place in 2012/13).

There is no doubt that local area requires this level of resource (and more) to address the profound challenges in its business base. As our 2016-20 Knowledge Exchange Strategy sets out Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire faces:

  • Low levels of business expenditure in R&D (BERD) at £155m per annum (within a national range of £19m to £1,332m), with a low percentage share of national BERD relative to the percentage share of FTE employment nationally.
  • An hourly GVA of £23.92 per FTE in 2012, 38th out of 39 LEP areas;
  • Low levels of company innovation, with less than 10% of total companies reported as innovation active in 2012 (placing the LEP 36th out of 39 LEP areas);
  • The lowest level of innovation expenditure relative to turnover of any LEP in England, with only 6.5% of turnover in companies being generated by innovative goods and services, placing the LEP area 33rd out of 39 LEP area.

(BEIS mapping of comparative local advantage).

The area also presents opportunities for higher value added growth aligned with the research base at Keele, including identified clusters in energy and environmental technologies and high employment in life sciences (1st out of 19 LEP areas with potential employment clustering in this area).

The Strategy strongly reflects the University’s growing role as a local economic anchor. The design principles underpinning its programme priorities address the key requirements for an effective local innovation system based on leading examples globally.

The priorities set out in the strategy include:

  • New Keele Deal: to establish a strategic local agreement (now Keele Deal | Economy) setting out the shared ambitions and investment plans for place of innovation-led growth in the area’s industrial strategy, along with support for the programme approach. The Deal positioned Keele as a Strategic Growth Site across the broader North West Midlands.
  • Business Gateway: a welcoming front door for businesses and a single easily navigable way to connect with Keele’s expertise.
    Business Gateway process model
  • SME research and innovation: at considerable scale to support many more SMEs to plan and deliver research and innovation to internationally recognised standards.
  • Apprenticeships: A stronger contribution from Keele’s education programmes to meeting local employment needs through the development of higher and degree level apprenticeships.
  • SME Leadership: a programme for SME owner-managers to address the evidenced challenges of implementing successful innovation. Its design was underpinned by academic research, BEIS and EU commissioned studies.
  • Smart Energy Demonstrator and 'Living Lab': realising the ambition for the mixed use environment at Keele’s campus to provide an at-scale demonstrator and ‘living laboratory’.
  • Open Health Innovation: health and medtech innovation infrastructure in partnership with the NHS. building on the nine life sciences companies on the Science and Innovation Park, which employ 360 people.

The development of the Strategy was informed by feedback from key stakeholders, ensuring that it was responsive to the specific 'calls to action' on Keele in the 2014 Strategic Economic Plan for Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire. Investment proposals led by Keele were formally assessed as having a high level of strategic fit by the LEP.

The first Keele Deal was followed by a Keele Deal | Culture in 2018 and Keele Deal Health in 2019 - each making different contributions to local growth and with different geographies to reflect our existing footprint of partnerships and/or the areas of need and opportunity for the intended impacts.

Geographic focus of each Keele Deal

Geographic focus of each Keele Deal

Delivery of the 'New Keele Deal'. The Deal was launched in January 2017. Partners included the Local Enterprise Partnership, Staffordshire County Council, Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council and the University Hospital North Midlands.

Huge strides have been made since the Deal was signed to develop Keele Science and Innovation Park (KUSIP) as a strategic growth site, with the completion of two further innovation centres (which together house over 50 businesses and 750 employees) and two private sector investments. Keele University Growth Corridor proposals secured support in the Local Plan in 2017.

University Enterprise Zone status was awarded by Research England in the autumn of 2019, enabling Innovation Centre 7 (IC7) to progress, which will focus on advanced data analytics, Construction will start at the end of 2020.

A combined Veterinary School with Harper Adams and Innovation Centre 8 (with a focus on agtech, animal science and food security innovation) is also under construction. This has the potential to add an additional £65m GVA to the regional economy by 2033 and support over 110 jobs.

The Keele University Business Gateway was launched in November 2016 as part of the inaugural Staffordshire Business Festival. The Gateway provides a website, a single phone line, a clear description of the opportunities and expertise available, and is supported by a team of 12 business advisors to guide people to the right solutions.

Keele Research and Innovation Support Programme (KRISP) This programme was launched in 2016 and has since delivered entry level research and innovation projects via graduate consultants with academic oversight.

Degree-level Apprenticeships.
 Keele’s first apprenticeships were delivered from 2018/19 and our Apprenticeships portfolio now includes five programmes with 26 employers including Barclays, Allied Bakeries and Matalan. 165 learners have benefited to date, and further programmes are in development to support the next phase in our research-aligned contributions to local growth.

In 2018 Keele established an Employer Advisory Group to provide graduate employers with an opportunity to influence and contribute to student learning. The group now includes 90 national, regional and local employers.  

Mercia Centre for Innovation Leadership (MCIL). This six-month programme enables owner managers and senior teams to benefit from expertise within Keele Business School. Launched in 2016/17, the programme is now on its sixth cohort.

The Smart Innovation Hub. In 2018/19 Keele’s programmes around SME innovation and entrepreneurship were brought together in a purpose-built facility in Keele University’s Science and Innovation Park, to provide:

  • incubation and grow-on space for innovation-led SMEs;
  • a hub for business-university interactions; and
  • a home for Keele Business School.

The unique building was completed in August 2019 and opened its doors the following month.

The Smart Energy Network Demonstrator (SEND) has gained an international profile for its ambition and leadership in carbon reduction and open innovation in localised smart energy. The initial infrastructure was installed in 2018/19 in partnership with Siemens for whom this is a flagship innovation project. Two industry engaged Professors, Doctoral and Masters projects and  a supply chain development programme support flexible levels of collaboration with SMEs (193 to date).

The success of SEND has led to Keele’s involvement in two major partnerships at the forefront of UK energy revolution:

  • Zero Carbon Rugeley – part of the UK Industrial Strategy’s PFER programme, this two-year project led by Engie UK delivers a citizen-informed design for the smart localised energy system for the town of Rugeley in Staffordshire, building on the expertise SME development at Keele.
  • A partnership led by Cadent and Northern Gas Networks, the Hydeploy project saw Keele become the first site in the UK to accept hydrogen into its domestic and commercial gas supply, proving the safety case and providing consumer insights to inform the evaluation of the roll-out.

The Business Bridge health and medtech open innovation programme started in 2016, supporting 60 open innovation projects since its inception.  In 2018 we held the first Keele-led Healthcare Business Network, a regional forum for companies in all sectors. The network now includes over 150 members.

The Keele Deal | Health, the third of our Deals was launched in November 2019, with a geographic focus extending into Shropshire, Cheshire and Wolverhampton. As well as addressing local health and care priorities, the Deal further develops the local eco-system to promote innovation-led growth.

Local Industrial Strategy

Keele has played a key role in the development of the area’s local industrial strategy, particularly around the role of innovation in transitions to a more resilient higher value low carbon economy.

Regional collaboration

Keele is an active partner in two of the platforms established Midlands Innovation Partnership to support the economic impact of Universities across the region:

  • ERA – Keele contributing demonstrator capacity around smart systems and hydrogen, as well as disctinctive social science expertise; and
  • Micra, the UK’s largest technology transfer eco-system. This is supported by a distinctive commercialisation policy at Keele, which rather than holding on to IP, seeks to vest the commercial rights and/or ownership in IP with the external partner(s) best placed to exploit it. 

COVID-19 Civic response

Keele has been involved in a range of efforts to address the impacts of the pandemic. Our business focus has included Keele Talks Business webinar series and an enterprise Base Camp to address the anticipated rise in ‘necessity entrepreneurship’.

Keele’s Knowledge Exchange Strategy 2021-25

We are currently laying foundations for the 2021-25 KE Strategy.  As part of this, we have been working with partners on our longer-term contribution to recovery and are now able to set out Keele’s proposition, a comprehensive institutional endeavour, which will be launched as a Keele Deal | Recovery later in the autumn. Our aim is to further demonstrate the difference a university can make to the fortunes of an area when it shows collective leadership, listens to and works with others, and delivers on shared priorities.

Keele Deal | Recovery thematic coverage

Keele Deal | Recovery thematic coverage

New Keele Deal

Since its launch the Keele Deal Economy has attracted over £36m of capital funding into the local area to support local growth, along with £15.8m of revenue funding to promote innovation-led growth and stimulate business investment in R&D.  This is already estimated to have delivered an additional £16m into the local economy, and by 2021 is set to have achieved a reduction in CO2 emissions of 4,096 tonnes a year.

  SME RD&I £m Leadership £m MedTech & Health £m Smart Energy £m Smart Innovation Hub £m Digital/advanced analytics £m Total £m
ERF 1.5 0.8 1.6 12.2 10.2 8 34.3
City Deal              
Growth Deal              
Private 0.1           0.1
County Council              
RED Fund           0.9 0.9
Getting Building Fund           6 6
University Hospital NM     0.1       0.1
Total external 1.6 0.8 1.7 17.2 15.6 14.9 51.8
Keele (time and capital) 0.9 0.5 1 3.1 8.3 0.5 14.3
Total 2.5 1.3 2.7 20.3 23.9 15.4 66.1


Business Gateway and Local Growth programmes

The Keele University Business Gateway team has dealt with 1,200 enquiries from businesses, and has helped 627 to access Keele’s programmes and wider expertise. The headline outputs from our local growth programmes to date are:

  Leadership and Enterprise Research and Innovation Smart Energy Network Demonstrator Health and Medtech
Enterprises supported 117 189 193 60
Supported to introduce new to market products and processes 33 61 1 9
Supported to introduce new to the firm products and processes 41 117 1 9
New enterprises and potential entrepreneurs assisted 12 20 18 14
Employment increase 61 22 0 0

Beyond these metrics we gain an understanding of the experience and outcomes for our business partners in a variety of ways:

  • Independent evaluation – an external end-of-project evaluation (‘summative assessment’) is commissioned for every local growth programme. These inform the development and delivery of new programmes
  • Post project feedback surveys
  • Keele Deal partner updates: partners in the Deals are brought together at appropriate intervals for updates and to share perspectives on progress and review priorities for the coming period
  • Press and PR – Keele’s Business Gateway includes dedicated Press and PR expertise to build up case-studies and news on the website, drawing audiences to these through professional and social media and press releases at the local, regional and national levels as well as the Business Gateway newsletter, which has 2,361 active subscribers. 
  • Business Awards - We share and celebrate the impacts of our business-facing activities at Breaking the Mould, (BTM) our annual business awards, which we started in 2019. BTM is one of many platforms enabling peer-to-peer learning across our business-facing activities.