University partners with CBI to unveil major new report


Advanced data analytics is opening up a "new frontier" for business research and development (R&D), according to a new report from Nexus and the Confederation of British Industry.

Revealing that businesses are facing unprecedented advances in data-driven technologies, the report also outlines the vital role that universities play in helping harness the power of data.

The report, The Changing Nature of R&D, will be the focus of discussion today at the formal opening of Nexus, where the CBI and the University join forces to present the findings to senior UK business leaders, funders and stakeholders.

Citing the Government’s aim for R&D investment to reach 2.4% of GDP by 2027, the CBI make a series of recommendations to support businesses, arguing that advanced data analytics is opening up a "new frontier" for business R&D that could help address potential spending shortfall.  

Vital role for universities 

Professor Lisa Roberts, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research & Innovation at the University of Leeds, said: “The CBI/Nexus report shows the extraordinary opportunities for UK businesses to harness data for R&D, as well as the vital role universities have to play in supporting innovation and productivity. 

There has never been a better time for universities and businesses to collaborate.

Professor Lisa Roberts

“Unlocking this potential will supercharge R&D and that’s why we’re making a step-change at Leeds in how we work with business.

“This is what Nexus, our innovation hub, is all about – giving businesses seamless access to this support. There has never been a better time for universities and businesses to collaborate.”

The CBI has called on the Government to spur R&D growth, suggesting vital research and development spending is more than two decades behind the UK’s growth target.

Felicity Burch, CBI Director of digital and innovation, said: “The Government must speed up its effort to hit the 2.4% target or the UK is at risk of falling further behind. Advanced data analytics are opening up a new frontier for UK R&D – to ensure we benefit, we must have a comprehensive roadmap underpinned by a boost in public funding to spur growth in UK R&D investment."  

Advanced data analytics are opening up a new frontier for UK R&D.

Felicity Burch, CBI

In the report, the CBI calls on the Government to:

  • act on its commitment to deliver the 2.4% target by publishing a comprehensive roadmap and setting out a long-term trajectory for government R&D expenditure;
  • make it easier for businesses to navigate innovation support: Government should create a ‘digital one-stop shop’ that clearly outlines and signposts the range of innovation support that businesses can access; 
  • introduce new support for businesses to develop the capacities they need to understand and unlock value from their data; 
  • deliver the world’s most competitive R&D tax credit by ensuring that it recognises the growing importance of data-driven R&D.

The report outlines how businesses are unsure of the value of data and how to exploit it, highlighting how companies are currently only capturing a fraction of the potential value from data and analytics.

Only 4% of companies report having the right people, tools and data to be able to draw meaningful insights from data. 

Harnessing the power of data 

One of the case studies featured in the national report outlines the University's partnership with Asda, to support its sustainability strategy.

Working with the University's Consumer Data Research Centre, Asda gained greater insight into customer’s attitudes and purchasing behaviours, to help shoppers to reduce their food waste.

"The results of our project with the University were fantastic", said Laura Babbs, Sustainability Manager at Asda, "with two million customers making changes in their home and benefiting from an average saving of £57 per year."  

Unlocking potential with Nexus 

Nexus Director Dr Martin Stow added: “We can help unlock the potential of data, to help businesses make better use of their data, access new data, or upskill the workforce to increase analytic capability.

Lisa Roberts, Martin Stow, NexusDr Martin Stow and Professor Lisa Roberts

“As the CBI/Nexus report confirms, ground-breaking ideas, inventions and products are today about pools of talent, shared expertise and collaboration, and Nexus is aimed at accelerating and de-risking such innovation, to maximise commercial returns.”

Supporting the region 

Beckie Hart, CBI Yorkshire and Humber Regional Director, said: “Businesses are sitting on a mountain of valuable data but many are grappling with what steps to take to exploit its value. Striking up partnerships with universities is one way to bring in talent, make use of state-of-the-art facilities and conduct cutting-edge research.  

“It’s encouraging to see this region leading the way with the opening of Nexus," she added. "Setting up more collaborative initiatives will mean the UK can be at the forefront of harnessing the latest trends in innovation and remain a great place to do business.”

Nexus will be a major asset in attracting inward investment into Leeds and will act as a great catalyst for business and job creation.

Cllr Judith Blake, Leeds City Council

Roger Marsh OBE, Chair of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and the NP11 (Northern Powerhouse 11) Board, said: “It is fitting that the report has been unveiled at the opening of the University of Leeds’ new innovation hub, Nexus – an important new resource in our region to accelerate the benefits of businesses working closely with world-class researchers to deliver outstanding innovation. 

Nexus – an important new resource in our region.

Roger Marsh, LEP

Nexus has received investment from the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership, delivered in partnership with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, through the Leeds City Region Growth Deal – a £1 billion package of Government investment to accelerate growth and create jobs across Leeds City Region.

Leader of Leeds City Council, Councillor Judith Blake, said: “It is a very exciting and important development to see Nexus launched today. It has a key role to play in the city and wider region as part of a world-leading innovation district driving economic growth through the collaboration of ideas, knowledge and learning.

“Nexus will be a major asset in attracting inward investment into Leeds and will act as a great catalyst for business and job creation, so we very much look forward to seeing it grow and thrive in the months and years to come.”

Further information

Read more about the University teams working together to help businesses to thrive, innovate and grow. 

For details about the report, contact University of Leeds press office via or +44(0)113 343 4031.