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By Neil Pearce

Head of Commercial Enterprise

Commercial Enterprise at South Bank Innovation (SBI) is where we use our sector insights and expertise to work with London South Bank University (LSBU) academics and leverage the opportunities, funding and industry connections needed to deliver LSBU’s ambition for research and enterprise.

To learn more about our collaborative work and how we can benefit your business or research, click here.

I can’t look ahead to 2023 without mentioning that 2022 was an excellent year for South Bank Innovation when it comes to Knowledge Exchange and commercial partnering with our academics, facilities, and research at LSBU.

Just a few highlights were:

The Help to Grow Programme

Funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), this three-year leadership programme has already seen 193 businesses engage with us with many more cohorts still to come.

The funding from BEIS has delivered close to £1million for the LSBU Business School and is set to top out at close to £3million by the end of the programme. BEIS holds up LSBU’s delivery of the programme as the exemplar among the 26 providers throughout the UK.

In 2022, the Minister for Small Business met with key players, Lyn Hamblin (LSBU School of Business) and Dan Janowski (SBI) to discuss the impact we are having on SMEs.

The Engineering Innovation Centre

In 2022, we established the Engineering Innovation Centre at our new LSBU Croydon campus. This came about through strong relations being developed with the government’s Defence and Security Accelerator. So far, we have won over £100,000, and have a range of submissions totalling over £1million planned for the coming months. This is establishing LSBU as a leading player for engineering development in the UK.


NHSX was established in 2019 to bring the benefits of modern technology to every patient and clinician. It combines learning from across the NHS, policy and industry to create the most advanced health and care service in the world.

In 2022, £1.15million was awarded to LSBU from NHSX after submissions from SBI. This funding will evaluate digital developments in healthcare coming from cross-school and departmental projects. Bringing together academics from across the institution to discuss and combine their research has been particularly gratifying the university.

Knowledge Exchange Framework 2

If you read Alex Elkins introduction to our #BringKnowledgeToLife campaign you’re already aware that September 2022 saw the publication of the second Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF). The KEF uses data collected through the Higher Education – Business and Community Interaction survey to produce a visualisation of institutional enterprise activity that is then bench marked across the sector.  

Within the sector, our success in commercial enterprise and Knowledge Exchange has enabled us to maintain our position at the head of our institute cluster. Whilst very pleased with these results, we strive to improve.

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Courses

In 2022 we also went live with our CPD and short courses platform. Host to a wide range of courses for individuals and a training hub for businesses, the platform is fully equipped to upskill you and your organisation. Exciting times lay ahead as we look to grow throughout the coming year, broadening our accredited and partner offerings, like our GreenScies decarbonisation and heating courses.

So, What’s Next?

As I said, we strive to improve! In 2023 we will be widening our scope for growth in Intellectual Property (IP) and commercialisation, particularly rebuilding our Knowledge Transfer Partnership portfolio, as key strategic drivers for the year ahead.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP’s) are a three-way collaboration between industry, academia, and a graduate. The programmes connect and provide academic expertise to help organisations deliver an innovative project within their business.

For 2022/23 UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) through Innovate UK, increased the budget for KTPs to £35million, supporting 400 applications. There are further increases set for 2023/24 with £45million set aside to fund 500-600 applications. So, the opportunity is definitely there for us to leverage and show off LSBU’s talents!

Great successes in the Accelerated Knowledge Transfer to Industry (AKT2i) fund – basically mini KTPs - and the KTP Capacity Building fund which develop academic KTP mentors, in 2022 all point towards a promising year ahead.

The National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB) recently published its State of the Nation address. Looking back, with 2020/21 being the last year with full data, we saw some interesting trends. Despite the lockdowns, overall university business collaborations only dropped by 2%, although Knowledge Exchange activity was down 10%.

The approach taken by SBI to manage in this harsh climate was to be agile in both protecting our existing work and in winning new bids in everything from research awards to delivery of European Regional Development Fund programmes. In turn, this has helped us open channels to new income sources, such as delivering our renowned health programmes to overseas health services, for 2023.

Some of the specifics from the review are not surprising but provide us with useful benchmarks. For example, the average Innovation UK (IUK) grant across the UK fell to £195,000 in 2021/22. During the same period, our average IUK grant was £168,000, meaning we fared well against the sector. Our strategy is to grow the average size of a funded contract and this data suggests we’re on track to achieve this in the coming year.

It was also good to see the UK Government confirming, at the November Autumn Statement, their previous Spending Review commitment to increase public spending on R&D to £20billion a year by 2024/25. The effect of this to Knowledge Exchange can already be seen, with LSBU benefitting from the additional support for KTPs and other IUK initiatives.

In his foreword to the NCUB State of Nation report, George Freeman MP, Minister for Science, Technology, Innovation and Space, confirmed that the UK Government remain committed to confirming their association to Horizon Europe or developing a comprehensive alternative science, research and innovation programme for Global Britain. This programme will be able to harness international collaborations, nurture top scientific talent and support innovative business.

The continued support and funding for R&D growth means that our strategic goals for Research and Innovation in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Mathematics) and Health will enable us to continue our development in a range of expertise.

To deliver these goals in 2023 we will further build on our progress in research commercialisation, IP development, CPD and short courses, and economic development whilst creating growth opportunities for all those involved.

I look forward to stepping up to the challenge.

Neil Pearce
Head of Commercial Enterprise
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