Local Growth and Regeneration

Summary of approach

The University of Northampton is committed to making a positive social, environmental, cultural and financial impact in the county and region, achieved through social innovation. We place ourselves at the heart of Northamptonshire, playing a key role in leading growth and regeneration.  As the only University in Northamptonshire we place ourselves as a civic, voluntary and business partner from regenerating a brownfield site in the UK’s largest Enterprise Zone into our new sustainable campus in Northampton town centre, to developing Northampton Social Enterprise Town status, partners in two growing social enterprise companies, supporting the business and Voluntary communities from start up’s to growth, support and skills.


  • Through our status as an Ashoka U Changemaker Campus, we are committed to making a positive social, environmental, cultural and financial impact in the county of Northamptonshire and wider region of South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP) area, achieved through social innovation adopting a local to global approach.

    The University strategy Transform Lives and Inspire Change directs our activity in teaching, learning, research and social enterprise, the experiences we provide for our students and strategic partnerships for the betterment of Northampton, Northamptonshire and the wider area. Our ambition is to improve the social, economic, cultural and environmental wellbeing of all those living, working, and learning in Northamptonshire in order to positively transform lives and inspire change. Our ‘social impact’ agenda delivered through our four Changemaker Commitments ensures our activity creates real impact within the local area.  These interrelated challenges are embedded across all our activities and teaching, they focus on the county’s businesses; healthcare; heritage and finally education, the challenges are multi-disciplinary, long-term, real world projects. They commit us to determined and effective internal and external partnership working and delivering high-impact positive change, while guiding our strategic direction and ambitions to develop and drive value in our community.

    Our role in place making and embedding in Northampton’s infrastructure was a key decision in the University’s move to our new £330 million Waterside Campus regeneration project on an unused derelict site in the UK’s Largest Enterprise Zone. We consulted on the approach for future use for our old campus in Northampton, which led to the redevelopment of the site for housing for the local community and inclusion of social housing. Social impact was included in all parts of the tendering processes and contracts for the Waterside development.

    We have worked extremely closely with SEMLEP and the former Northamptonshire Local Enterprise Partnership, local authorities, the NHS, voluntary and business communities to ensure that we add value to the economic, social and cultural life of the county built upon through our HEIF strategy 2016-2021.  We have deployed our existing, and new, resources in coordinated partnerships with key local stakeholders to improve the economic metrics and business environment of Northamptonshire.  We have built upon this with our joint partnerships in areas such as Business Support, Health, Transport and Employment opportunities in the county.

    With the LEP and the County Council we wrote Northamptonshire’s Strategic Economic Plan (SEP) and set up the Northamptonshire Growth Hub (NGH) in 2013 to help deliver the business goals the SEP specified. We made a significant contribution to the production of Northamptonshire’s European Structural and Investment Fund Strategy 2014 – 2020.

    We developed with our LEP partners and knowledge of the business community needs to develop business support schemes and development of ERDF bids to grow Northamptonshire businesses – such as Innovate Northamptonshire, NODE, Time2Grow.

    We actively take a role in social enterprises to meet our strategic aims and impact across the county from being key partners in Community Interest Companies (CIC) through to developing Northampton’s Social Enterprise Place status.

    Examples of our consultations and engagement include:

    • To help the workforce of Northamptonshire, our Institute of Logistics, Infrastructure, Supply and Transport works in partnership with Northamptonshire County Council on an initiative funded by the Department for Transport to help transform the provision of public and community transport across Northamptonshire. An output of the research led to the creation of a social enterprise – SOCIETAL Travel CIC to deliver holistic transport commissioning across business, education and health sectors that not only minimised cost, but greatly enhanced service, health and wellbeing, innovative city solutions and developed our social enterprise model across Northampton and managed transports hubs in the town and bus services now actively managed by the University.
    • Our strategic research and plans enabled us to work with the Office of the Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner to bid for funds for the development of The Good Loaf CIC to provide work programmes and job opportunities for women wanting to break the cycle of unemployment, offending and poverty.
    • The Vice Chancellor is Chair of the Northamptonshire Health and Wellbeing Board, with Northamptonshire County Council and Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust we created First for Wellbeing in 2016, an integrated health and wellbeing service, the first of its kind.
    • Through our Changemaker Hub we encourage the development of student values and links to community engagement and volunteering for the wider community, linkages with Voluntary Impact Northants and direct engagement with voluntary sector organisations helped us develop the requirements to support those furthest from the workplace back into employment with our Working Progress ESF and lottery funded project.
    • Engaging with Public Sector and businesses such as our Innovative Industry Led Forums, Digital Northampton to develop support mechanisms, with wide ranging events such as Merged Futures and Tech at 10.
    • Using our leading research around Dementia to consult with the local community to improve support for individuals and their carers including Dementia Friendly status for local organisations and innovative partnerships such UnityDem and progression of a purpose-built Dementia Village.
    • To increase accessibility of Knowledge Exchange to local organisations following on from ERDF projects we developed BIG ideas to allow access to our expertise.
    • Our Globally Unique Institute for Creative Leather Technologies enables us to continue to build on Northamptonshire’s heritage in the footwear manufacturing sector and has developed following discussions with the leather sector worldwide to include work with high end automotive and aerospace organisations.
  • Programmes we have delivered following our consultations with local partners to realise our strategic goals and benefit the county include:

    • Running the Northamptonshire Growth Hub working in partnership with SEMLEP (and the former previous Northamptonshire LEP) supporting over 7,100 local organisations, bringing in over £7million funding to Northamptonshire and leading on a number of business ERDF-funded projects to support Innovation, Growth Knowledge Exchange and Digital Connectivity
    • We deliver Inspire2Enterprise, a support service for anyone looking to start, run, finance or partner with a social enterprise across the UK, supporting clients to achieve and deliver their intended social outcomes. Since 2001 it has supported close to 2,500 clients. In the academic year 2018/19, the service enjoyed a 62% increase in enquiries (871 clients). 65% of Inspire2Enterprise enquiries come from people who haven’t started up their social enterprise yet.
    • Delivery partner in SEMSUP , focusing on social enterprises and start-ups across the South East Midlands area. The support includes the provision of one-to-one advice, workshops, grants and incubation facilities
    • A key partner in Goodwill Solutions Ltd since 2011, delivering logistics solutions and benefitting the local community working with offenders, ex-offenders, the homeless and disadvantaged to secure successful employment.  Goodwill Solutions was awarded the Queens Award for Enterprise in 2020 in recognition of their impact.
    • Delivering Working Progress supporting those difficult to reach into employment using ESF and lottery funding, supporting over 700 individuals to date, resulting in a £1million social impact boost to the economy.
    • Our Innovative Industry led Forums engage with businesses to address sector challenges, feeding into Local Industry Strategy and consultations on travel, regeneration, sustainability, feeding into wider LEP and business programme delivery.
    • We take a key role in the Economic Development Groups in the county with local authorities and LEPs in the count, forming part of the county cell during the COVID-19 pandemic to deliver economic recovery packages and free business support webinars.
    • We host a termly Community Forum, which brings together staff from across the University and Students’ Union with members of the local community around our Waterside campus, including local action and residents associations, for an open, two-way dialogue to raise community concerns and create community solutions.
    • Waterside Campus facilities are used by a wide range of business and voluntary organisations from disability sports teams to supporting opportunities for those with physical and learning disabilities.  In addition, our Student Action for Refugees group provides English language conversation classes and football training on campus.
    • We set up a social enterprise hub listening to the needs of organisations and the development of Social Enterprise Town Status for Northampton, 74 social enterprises operate as CICs in Northampton, building on our achievements with Goodwill Solutions, The Good Loaf and SOCIETAL
    • Part of Northampton Forward leading regeneration in Northampton town centre
    • As part of our commitment to businesses to be competitive by accessing graduate talent we have a series of interns, placements and funded projects such as ERDF Time2Grow and NETP our industry engineering partnership
    • We take active roles in Northampton’s two business improvement districts, supporting businesses, improving public realm and developing opportunities such as Virtual Job Fairs.
    • Following feedback from businesses we delivered a series of free Business Support Webinars and Start up support with local authorities during COVID.
    • Partnering with Northamptonshire County Council we developed Digital Northampton, enhancing digital skills and technology transfer for businesses, with wide ranging events such as Merged Futures.
    • As part of our move to our new campus we donated furniture and equipment to local charities and schools, saving 800 tonnes from waste and sustainably reused. As part of our new campus we have ethical and sustainable procurement and led to 1,200 jobs locally and opportunities during its build.
    • Development of the Lord-Lieutenant of Northamptonshire’s Leaders’ Forum helping businesses look at their potential to make a positive impact on the world.
    • We support and fund Nlive Radio Station, supporting local communities, volunteering and during the COVID-19 pandemic communicating vital messages.
    • We led on Northamptonshire’s Best Surprise providing support to the programme which aims to boost visitor numbers focusing on campaigns around Arts & Culture, historic houses, food & drink
    • We took a key role during the COVID-19 pandemic to support the local community and partners through supporting students to housing rough sleepers in our accommodation.
    • Uniconnect, works with students and schools part of the Aspire Higher Consortium with the Universities of Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, working across the three counties to develop and share opportunities and resources to encourage and support students progressing to Higher Education whether at University, Further Education College or Apprenticeships.
    • Delivering high impact engagement for students across the county through activities such as BIG Bang engaging with over 4,000 students in 2019.
    • Café Scientifique events, open to all to hear about the latest thinking in science, research and innovation
  • We were the first ever university in the UK to be awarded Ashoka U Changemaker Campus status – meaning the University is internationally recognised for its commitment to social innovation and entrepreneurship – and the estimated joint value created across the University’s UON social impact activities stands at £52million and we continue to build on this and to ensure we maintain our accreditation through submission of yearly reviews to Ashoka U.

    In addition, our activity is conveyed to our stakeholders and communities through storytelling of our impact, through reports, media and direct engagement such as:

    • We publish the impact of our activities through our Social Impact Reports.
    • Measuring our social impact through the Social Impact Matrix© methodology we have developed through our Institute for Social Innovation and Impact. We have supported over 50 social enterprises, charities and government departments with impact measurement.
    • Publication of our response to the COVID-19 pandemic for the local community.
    • We have received a number of awards in recognition of our achievements in contributing to local regeneration and social impact and demonstrating our year on year commitment.
    • Our Annual Changemaker Awards present the story of our activities to the local community and celebrate our successes and impacts on the county.
    • Our recent Perceptions of University Audit for key local stakeholders demonstrated we are seen as an important contributor to the local economy, source of regional pride and a contributor to the local economy.
    • We will shortly commission our latest Impact Report for the local economy – the last in 2015 demonstrated our £290m income into the county and job creation of 2,700.  The report also identified a 222% multiplier of economic impact to turnover for the University.

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