Teesside University is among 70 national and local organisations from across the country urging the government to provide immediate clarity on how it intends to deliver the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF).
In an open letter, coordinated and led by the University Alliance (UA), the group of 70 universities and businesses call for greater transparency and clarity on the UKSPF, the government’s proposed successor to current EU Structural Funds, so as to avoid a cliff edge of support disappearing when existing programmes end in 2023.
EU Structural Funds have been a key enabler of collaboration between universities and business, used to support and develop communities and regions; whether through programmes that have increased employment and skills, or through initiatives to drive forward research, innovation and enterprise.
Without the timely replacement of these funds, many of the projects and schemes universities and businesses collaboratively deliver in local areas across the nation are at a huge risk, affecting individuals and livelihoods across the UK, at a time of growing economic challenges.
Member of UA’s Knowledge Exchange and Enterprise Network, and pro vice-chancellor for enterprise and business engagement at Teesside University, professor Jane Turner OBE, said: “Alliance universities are anchor institutions for our regions, truly civic in our mission.
“We work with local businesses and partners to catalyse economic growth, drive regeneration and are therefore perfectly positioned to help deliver the government’s levelling-up agenda.
“At Teesside University alone, we have leveraged over £50m of EU Structural funds. These have delivered infrastructure and innovation such as our National Horizons Centre, and supported over 1,000 SMEs; directly supporting jobs and regional businesses in the Tees Valley.
“With the existing funding due to end and no plan in place for the UKSPF, we run the risk of a gap emerging between funding regimes and the programmes they support, resulting in people, infrastructure and relationships disappearing and ultimately the erosion of the ecosystem we have worked so hard to establish.
“To continue doing our part to address current and future challenges, we need greater transparency and an open dialogue with government on the priorities, how they plan to administer and deliver the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, and in what timescales.
“Ultimately, as the end of the Brexit transition approaches and the severe impact of Covid continues to challenge our economic and social infrastructure, we need answers and a plan.”
University Alliance chief executive Vanessa Wilson added: “EU structural funds have been a vital mechanism for universities to support businesses and communities – especially throughout the pandemic.
“Details of their replacement, the UKSPF, have been promised but not delivered, and time is running out as we approach the end of the Brexit transition period.
“University and business leaders want to work constructively and proactively with the government now to address the current economic challenges and reduce inequalities between regions.
“Given the uncertainty ahead, it has never been more important to deliver the UKSPF, which will be a vehicle for the much-needed long-term planning and investment needed to level-up the nation.”