About innovation at Surrey
Innovation at Surrey means more than just helping our staff and students to innovate. The University has a responsibility to local, national and global society to make a positive impact for the benefit of all.
Three pillars support our innovation activities
Our innovation ecosystem
Our innovation ecosystem is a highly interconnected network of entrepreneurs, investors, suppliers, companies and partners all of whom have a link to the University. Nurturing, protecting and achieving positive impact through this ecosystem is one of our research and innovation strategic goals.
30 years in the making
Over the last 30 years, the University has contributed to the creation of many new businesses and industries in Guildford. Our success with innovation is made possible not only because of the quality of both our academic research but also because of the investment of time, resources, and funding we put into our innovation ecosystem.
One outstanding strength for knowledge transfer at Surrey has been through SETsquared, anchors in our SETsquared Surrey Incubator located in the Surrey Technology Centre on the Park, in operation since 2002. Working with the universities of Bath, Bristol, Exeter and Southampton, the SETsquared Partnership has supported over 4,000 UK high-tech start-ups since its inception, helping them raise more than £1.8bn of investment and creating £8.6bn of economic impact to 2020.
Collaborative engagement with business is strong in many sectors, including hospitality and tourism, space and aerospace, telecommunications, transport, creative industries, and health. A leading example is the 5G Innovation Centre, the largest in Europe, bringing together 25 leading industry partners and 45 SMEs to develop and disseminate next-generation wireless technologies. In 2018/19, Surrey’s business engagement activities are estimated to have generated GVA/jobs of: £17m/62 in Guildford, £38m/144 in Surrey, and £123m/698 across the UK.
For over fifty years, the University has benefited from the support of the Surrey community, and contributed, in turn, to progress in the region. Guildford Borough Council has approved the University’s Blackwell Farm development for key-worker housing and affordable homes. The University will ensure this site supports enhanced KE through extending the Research Park and ensuring its green and sustainable design is at the cutting edge.
Our social impact report, Measuring Up, highlights our strong community engagement and social contributions. Staff contribute to KE widely through public engagement, for example, through the successful Bright Club and Innovate Guildford events with over 100 community projects running at any one time.
Our KE and commercialisation activities have created a diverse portfolio of spin-offs, licensing, and investments. In the period 2014-2019, nationally we ranked 6th for “spin-offs with some Higher Education Provider (HEP) ownership” and 8th for “formal spin-offs not HEP owned”. Since the £50m sale of SSTL in 2009, Surrey has a continued track record of commercialisation success and innovation. During the pandemic, we have made use of HEIF to make equity investments and grants to support our local SME ecosystem.
Surrey Research Park: the heart of our ecosystem
Since its inception, the University of Surrey has supported knowledge exchange (KE) through collaboration with business and industry, much of which has been facilitated by the Surrey Research Park (SRP). Founded in 1984, SRP occupies 28.5h within the University’s grounds, and supports c170 businesses. Together with SRP, the University’s KE activities contributed c8,500 jobs and made a gross value added (GVA) contribution to the UK economy of £850m in 2018/19, an increase of 3% since 2015/16.
Surrey Research Park has proven instrumental in the creation of the Guildford digital games industry, with 70 companies contributing c1,000 jobs and £64m GVA to the local economy, including via the Park’s own RocketDesk.
Our commitment to responsible innovation
Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) is the concept that research and innovative practices should take into account the wider socio-economic impacts of the work beyond that of simply furthering the knowledge of humanity. As such, the goal should be that we, as researchers, scientists, innovators, and entrepreneurs “make new technologies work for society, without causing more problems than they solve.”
While there is no definitive set of criteria by which we can judge an innovation is, or is not, responsible, there is a consensus amongst funding bodies, commercial enterprises, and academics regarding general principles that researchers should endeavour to follow.
- That innovation should have value for society.
- That the innovator should consider all possible impacts.
- That the participation of stakeholders is important throughout all stages of the development process.
- That there should be transparent governance and oversight for the innovation to be truly responsible.
Responsible Research and Innovation has been embedded in key funding organisations such as Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and EU’s Horizon 2020 programme and in funding calls of other institutions. EPSRC has established the AREA framework to promote responsible innovation encouraging researchers and innovators to continuously:
- Anticipate the impact of innovation,
- Reflect on the motivations and potential implications,
- Engage with the public and stakeholders, and
- Act accordingly to influence the direction and trajectory of research and innovation process.
In collaboration with the University of Southampton, the University of Surrey have been researching best practices of Responsible Research and Innovation in preparation for producing our own set of guiding principles for our research community to apply in their own innovations.
Our research and innovation strategy
Our research and innovation strategy aligns our internal resources and focuses them to generate positive impact for society in a way which is co-ordinated to the wishes of our staff and students; our local community; our regional economy; and the wider world.
Our strategy is an integrated framework, recognising that innovation flows seamlessly from research, and by innovation, we imply broadly all societal benefit that accrues from our research – not only its monetisation, as important as that is.
Our Knowledge Exchange objectives
We define Innovation as making use of Knowledge Exchange (KE) to turn research outcomes into actions that make real world impact.
Our priorities for KE feed into our Research and Innovation strategy and can be summarised into four key objectives:
1: Scale Innovation: Scale innovation to become a mainstream activity within our academic community by educating, stimulating, and facilitating innovation activities.
2: KE Pathways: Build upon existing successful KE pathways (such as IP commercialisation and business collaboration) to broaden KE activities to strengthen public and community engagement and policy development, thereby, leading our region in societal and behavioural change as well as product and service innovation.
3: Innovation Ecosystem: Optimise our Innovation Ecosystem to facilitate external engagement, enabling businesses to boost productivity and prosperity in our region, encouraging investment in R&D, supporting non-business partners to enhance society and maximising student and researcher employability skills and experience.
4: KE Partnerships: Build new KE partnerships across a wide geography, supporting skills transfer and intelligent investment in future infrastructure and policy, contributing our regional skills to levelling up across the UK.
We make use of our Higher Education Innovation Funding (HEIF) to support our KE Strategy and Scale Innovation activity. Our HEIF accountability statement can be read here and sets out our funding plans to 2025.
University innovation contacts
Directors of Innovation Strategy
Project Officer, Blockstart Programme
Dr Winnie Chow
Partnership Manager: China