Local Growth and Regeneration

Summary of approach

UON (University of Northampton) has long-standing partnerships across Northamptonshire and the wider SEMLEP (South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnerships) and Ox Cam Arc local enterprise partnership regions.  As an anchor institution, we work closely with key public authorities, business, and voluntary and community sector organisations, contributing to strategy development and collaborating to deliver shared strategic priorities.

Our commitment to ‘social impact,’ delivered through our changemaker commitments, ensures our knowledge exchange activity creates real impact within the local area. Commitment four, ensuring a positive environment for entrepreneurial growth and development, underpins most of our local growth and regeneration activities. This commitment guides our knowledge exchange activities towards maximising economic growth with an emphasis on business start-up and growth, and skills development.

  • We are committed to making a positive social, environmental, cultural and economic impact in the county of Northamptonshire, the wider region of South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP) and the Oxford to Cambridge corridor, adopting a local to global approach to social innovation. The University strategic ambition is to improve the social, economic, cultural, and environmental wellbeing of all those living, working, and learning in Northamptonshire 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, and 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.

    The Changemaker Commitments are informed through our ongoing engagement and partnerships within the regional area. UON has active representation on, and collaborates with, a wide network of local and regional stakeholders including councils, public service organisations, businesses, business networks, community, and voluntary groups, providing UON with, economic evidence and insights into the local growth and regeneration needs of our region. The following are examples of the stakeholder organisations where we have active connections, and from whom evidence and insight is gathered to help inform our strategy and activities.

    • Northampton Forward leading regeneration in Northampton town centre
    • UON has worked with both unitary councils and their predecessor organisations to help shape investment and programmes though the pandemic, we were members of the Local Resilience Forum economic recovery cell we ran the Recovery Through Enterprise Economic Recovery Programme, which provides packaged business support services to small and medium-sized enterprises
    • SEMLEP – We have worked closely with SEMLEP industrial strategy and subsequent COVID recovery plan. We have representation on a number of key boards and sub groups for SEMLEP including the Growth hub Board which provides strategic direction on the running of the growth hub and support for business as well as the future sustainability of its operational services, the South East Midlands University group which meets quarterly with the Chief Executive of the LEP (Local Enterprise Partnerships) to discuss joint areas of work and alignment to the economic needs of the locality
    • ARC Universities Group are working together to deliver the ARCs economic development goals
    • Business Improvement Districts-business led partnerships which are created through a ballot process to deliver additional services to local businesses., UON sits on several theses BIDS.
    • 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
    • Operation of Business Leaders forum and other industry led forums which provide valuable insight on the needs of business.
    • UON Centre for Sustainable Business Practice is helping charities, civic institutions and businesses work together to improve the social and business environment within which businesses operate. We help businesses do well by doing good’.
  • Working with partners ensures the focus of projects is identifiable and deliverable, meeting the needs of local businesses and the community as identified below by our recent activities structured against the Changemaker commitments.

    1. Every young person can flourish and learn

    We continue to provide a flexible response to the provision of our Knowledge Exchange (KE) to meet the needs of businesses and partners and continued to support our local community to address skills and vacancy shortages providing key opportunities to work with the university. Our HEIF (Higher Education Innovation Funding) allocation has enhanced our ability to leverage other funding to provide our student projects and internships offer including our ALPHAS (Accelerating Leadership and Productivity in High Ambition SMEs) Time2GrowSantander, and Blue skies programmes which provide mutual benefit to both companies and the students

    • UON Apprenticeships provide an opportunity for employers to address skills gaps within their organisations. By partnering with the University to deliver apprenticeships, employers can benefit from our expertise in designing and delivering high-quality training programs that meet industry standards and are tailored to the needs of specific sectors. In addition, they help us to reach out to underrepresented groups and individuals who may not have considered traditional academic routes. By providing a vocational pathway into higher education, we can engage with new audiences and support social mobility agendas.

    2. Positive health and wellbeing are fostered and promoted for all

    Active Quarter – UON have led in the Active Quarter project to transform existing green and urban spaces and nearby waterways to improve people’s health and wellbeing, at the same time uniting communities, aiding regeneration, and improving safety.

    COVID 19 Response – during the height of the pandemic UON provided lab equipment for the testing effort and several of our staff/students provided expertise and worked in testing labs. UON hosted and led Northampton’s first mass testing centre, supporting positive health during the pandemic, and enhancing community wellbeing through the provision of accommodation for key workers and the rough sleeping community.

    3. Cultures, heritage, and environment are respected, protected, and enhanced for future generations

    Heritage Impact Accelerator is a project supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund that will see the University of Northampton focus on enriching and highlighting the heritage of Corby.

    Waterside Campus sits within the Nene Valley Way Nature Improvement Area, making biodiversity of Waterside Campus a fundamental part of the university’s sustainability ethos. UON has worked in partnership with West Northamptonshire Council on their sustainability strategy and through initiatives such as Project Awesome (Accessing Waterside’s Ecosystem Services: Observing and Monitoring the Environment) we are:

    • Enhancing, conserving, and protecting wildlife and the environment in and around Waterside Campus
    • Ensuring that Waterside one of the most biodiverse university campuses in the UK
    • Promoting Waterside as a place that nurtures staff and student health and wellbeing
    • Encouraging both students and staff in volunteering, observing wildlife and monitoring the environment. 

    4. There is a positive environment in which entrepreneurial opportunities are supported to grow

    • We have been key partner in Goodwill Solutions Ltd since 2011, delivering solutions and benefitting the local community working with offenders, ex-offenders, the homeless and disadvantaged to secure successful employment. Company was awarded the Queens Award for Enterprise in 2020 in recognition of their impact.
    • Our role in place making and regenerating Northampton was a key decision in the University’s move to our £330 million Waterside Campus regeneration project on an unused derelict site in the UK’s Largest Enterprise Zone which post COVID is supporting the businesses within Northampton town centre.
    • The Faculty Business Law (FBL) Challenge is a stakeholder engagement event and competition where students within the Faculty of Business and Law, with support from staff, pitch innovative ideas to business executives which address complex sustainability challenges within their commercial practices. The FBL Challenge is organised and run-in partnership with several local businesses. This further demonstrates the work UON is doing to utilise its convening power to connect stakeholders with staff and students to co-create knowledge exchange activities
    • Our Business Support & Signposting is another key area we have utilised HEIF as match funding, supporting business growth and start up support. These initiatives include:
    • SEMSUP (South East Midlands Start Up) a start-up programme from which students and the wider community can benefit.
    • Growth Curve is aimed at Growth businesses in the SEMLEP area that utilise a mix of business advisor and academic expertise. These programmes leveraged European structural funds and contributed to achieving all the objectives set in the accountability statement.

    We continue to work closely with the new unitary authorities in the North and West of the county, the local enterprise partnership (SEMLEP), the Chamber of Commerce, and other statutory partners to expand our HEIF funded business support into an integrated offer providing targeted support and collaborative approaches to support local organisations and individuals as follows:

    • Management of Additional Restrictions Grants –supporting the delivery of the growth plans of businesses adversely affected by COVID. Delivered in two strands, start-up (registered less than 3 years trading) and established business grants, the Business Resilience, and Innovation Grant. Extension of Working Progress Collaboration Project – a programme of support led by University of Northampton that built the capacity of the VCSE (Voluntary, Charity and Social Enterprise) sector to support economically inactive individuals into employment and training.
    • Leadership of ESF project Pathways to Recovery – a UON led consortia including the University of Bedfordshire which provides self- employment support, advice, and guidance to economically inactive individuals and matches candidates with vacancies.
    • West Northamptonshire Social Enterprise Towns (WNSET) social enterprise internship programme offered 19 student internships within social enterprise and VCS organisations to support sustainability and growth of those companies.
    • Innovative Industry forums – UON leads several industrial fora which engage hundreds of businesses from larger corporates to smaller SMES. These for a create direct engagement and support with local businesses, local authorities, public health, and offer direct access for UON’s KE delivery. In the21/22 the Diversity & Inclusion forum was developed and is open to all employers supporting Diversity & Inclusion in their company or organisation.
    •  BIG22 invited applications from community entrepreneurs, UON students, graduates, and staff to submit proposals for commercial and social solutions to address societal needs and create new ventures.
    • We continued to play a key role in Digital Northampton and hosted the live conference – Merged Futures. This is a collaboration between local digital businesses, UON academic and professional staff, students, and local authority partners to promote digital innovation in and around Northamptonshire, facilitating knowledge exchange and collaborations.
    • Knowledge Exchange for Better Business, (KE4BB) a community renewal funded programme provided Northamptonshire SMEs support to develop and grow by offering free tailored support packages. These packages included access to expertise through a range of UON consultancy, webinars, focused programmes peer networking, membership of business support organisations and networks, virtual assistants, and fully funded student and graduate internships.
    • Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) – As part of our Business Support activities, we also have a long tradition of partnering with SMEs through KTPs. One recent example is LightPoint, a surgical device company, who teamed up with the University to enhance its product design capabilities, ensuring that its technologies were highly responsive to the complex demands of modern cancer surgery. The company’s first product, SENSEI®, is a laparoscopic probe designed for real-time detection of cancer during minimally invasive and robot-assisted surgery. The second, LightPath®, provides rapid molecular imaging of surgical tissue specimens in the operating room. Both products are highly innovative and a step change in imaging and sensing capabilities for cancer surgery.
  • UON is in the process of adopting a new mechanism for measuring impact through the development of the Social Impact Matrix. 21/22 was the first time the University’s social impact matrix has been applied to capturing, measuring, analysing, and reporting its social impact against all Changemaker Challenges. Taken together with the numerous case studies obtained as part of the process the matrix offers a robust, auditable, and substantial account of the social impact the university produces through its activities. The report offers a baseline against which future progress and development will be assessed, and the university can judge the value of social impact measurement as part of its decision-making process. Plans to improve the methodology, data capture, and reporting are already in place and we see this as part of a continuous improvement process that will inform further development at UON and enhance UON’s reputation as a Changemaker Campus.

    UON engagement with regional and local organisations and communities has significantly supported local growth and regeneration. While many of the above activities are ongoing, examples of some of the outcomes and impacts are described below:

    We have supported over 2000 businesses though our business signposting and helpline

    • SEMSUP has supported over 124 new businesses The impact of this programme has been significant, and I encapsulated in the following testimonial “SEMSUP has been invaluable resource. I could not believe the workshops & support were free, I was a bit worried & nervous about attending the workshops at first, but I realised they were easy to understand & really help me grow and develop my skill set. Even if you only walk away learning 1 thing, it is still 1 thing you did not know & can help your business. I felt encouraged to learn more & wanted too! It made me think about business in a different way & evaluate each stage of my business.” BRON’S BAKES
    • The FBL Challenge was first held in the 2017/2018 academic year and has been held an annual event ever since. There has been a total of 66 student finalists over the five-year period that the competition has been running, and we have anywhere between 70 and 100 students entering the competition each year. The success of the FBL Challenge over the years has resulted in some businesses in the county plugging the event into their innovation stream. This means that some of the innovative ideas that have been pitched to business executives over the last five years have been resulted in various outcomes. As an example, the winning pitch in the 2021 edition of the event is now being researched in collaboration with a local business through external grant funding with an objective to have it commercialised
    • The Business Resilience and Innovation Grant Scheme which operated under the ARG was aimed at addressing the impact that COVID had on the growth potential of the business. Supported over 90 businesses. This programme had an immediate impact on the businesses that accessed support summarised here ““Being accepted for a grant has enabled us to fund the creation of our new website, Online Equine. The new website integrates with a new stock system to control and measure stock flows, in turn managing stock across all platforms and dramatically reducing the risk of error. The new website also integrates with Atlantic Equine’s accounts software and reconciles each order. Having the new website integrate with our other systems enables the use of new sales channels on multiple selling platforms, such as eBay, Etsy, and Google; simultaneous communication with suppliers API stock portals for up-to-date availability; and increased turnover and margins as orders will be able to arrive the next day!” Atlantic Equines

    Dissemination and promotion of the impact of these programmes is achieved through

Our Campus