SDG8: Decent Work and Economic Growth

SDG8 aims to ‘promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all’, an area that the University is wholeheartedly committed to. Our work on the Oxford-Cambridge Arc supports the Arc’s commitment to make the Arc area the world’s ‘foremost innovation supercluster’. Globally, this remains a key area, particularly in light of the global financial crash of 2008 (the effects of which are still being felt) and the recent Covid-19 pandemic. Our work in this area encompasses supporting students with their employability, promoting and supporting local businesses including those from the social economy, and providing training and mentoring for those individuals experiencing long-term unemployment. We are proud of the work that we do to support this SDG, as we believe that employment and economic prosperity are key underpinnings in supporting many other SDG areas.

SDG8 Decent Work and Economic Growth tile


Economic Growth

We seek to support economic growth locally, nationally and internationally, with our local work seeking to support business start-up and growth, in order to create employability. We have worked closely with Big Issue to promote the ‘Social Echo’ programme, seeking to encourage local trading between private, public and third sector organisations. Regionally, we are a key supporter and partner in the Oxford-Cambridge Arc, that seeks to promote economic growth across the region and create the world’s ‘foremost innovation supercluster’. Nationally, our Inspire2enterprise CIC brand, established in 2012, continues to support social enterprises across the UK through business support, advice, mentoring and signposting to trusted, specialist advice including financial and legal support. To date I2E has supported over 2,500 business nationally. Internationally, we also seek to promote sustainable growth through our partnership work, with a notable example being a China and Emerging Economies Centre, which has supported economic growth through projects focused on sustainability through ‘circular supply-chains’ and ‘multinationals from emerging economies’.

Enterprise Support

The University is committed to supporting local enterprises and we have a particular focus on the social economy. The University led a consortium of local social enterprises to have Northampton designated as a Social Enterprise Place by SEUK, with Northampton Social Enterprise Town being established in 2019. Aside from the aforementioned I2E brand, the University has also previously run the Northamptonshire Growth Hub and continues to work alongside SEMLEP on regional enterprise support. The University also partners with other local HEIs to deliver the ALPHAS programme designed to support local SMEs with knowledge exchange and capacity. We also work on the SEMLEP Growth Curve programme, designed to support business leaders to scale their companies, through a combination of business advice, funding and university delivered master classes.

The University has also established its own incubator for supporting start-up and early-stage ventures, which is being managed by our new Social Entrepreneur in Residence. The University also owns and manages the Innovation Centre where businesses can rent office space, seek support and network. We are also committed to knowledge exchange between academia and business, having a dedicated Key Sector Knowledge Transfer Manager. This all contributes to our commitments through the UK’s Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF) and a summary of our strategy and activities in this area can be found at our Local Growth and Regeneration page.


The University supports employability both on campus and outside in the community. On the campus, students can engage in employability through its Changemaker programme. We engage in cutting-edge research that explores BAME attainment at the University and the factors underpinning youth unemployment. Our employability offer provides a platform to capture student development, opportunities for paid work and volunteering, award programmes to celebrate successes and support to help students understand how Changemaker activities connect with future graduate employability. The University is also a member of the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services. We also support students through our Employability+ programme, which supports students with employability related skills development, as well as building their personal attributes such as self-efficacy. We also provide in-depth training and support to staff around Continued Professional Development, through our C@N-DO programme and our Staff Development Team. Overall, this holistic approach to supporting employability on campus demonstrates the high-level of support we seek to provide to students and staff around career development.

In the community, as well as offering our above CPD courses, we also support employment through our work on the Building Better Opportunities (BBO) Working Progress programme (delivered in partnership with Commsortia). Our role on the BBO is to manage the programme and assist partner organisations in their delivery of employment interventions to socially disadvantaged individuals, the long-term unemployed and individuals with health problems (mental or physical). We are also the evaluation partner for Commsortia on the programme as well, producing annual evaluations of performance and impact. Our work on BBO is also combined with our support for work-integration social enterprises locally, including Goodwill Solutions CIC, a logistics social enterprise that supports ex-offenders and other disadvantaged individuals seeking employment and training. We believe that Northampton should be the number one place in the UK to start a business and be employed, and this is embodied in our Changemaker Challenge to ‘Contribute to Northamptonshire being the best county in the UK to start and grow a business’.

Please check out our latest research for SDG8: Decent Work and Economic Growth

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