The University of Bristol is among a UK-wide cohort of cities and their universities that is calling on the government to work towards a radical new vision to help bring social and economic prosperity post-Covid.

In a joint declaration, the 11 Core cities of the UK and 24 of their universities have outlined how they can contribute to boosting and broadening the scope of research and development spend, create high skilled jobs and facilitate social and economic recovery at a regional and national level.

Professor Guy Orpen, University of Bristol Deputy Vice-Chancellor, said: “This joint declaration sets out how the UK can harness the combined power of universities, their cities-regions and the local and global businesses within them to renew and level up the wider economy.

“Our cities and universities have a long and very successful history of working together on everything from globally successful spin-out companies to hospitals and science parks. Following the remarkable response to COVID-19 over the past months, these partnerships are stronger than ever. Government now has a clear opportunity to build on this success and empower our cities and universities to play their full part in the delivering the post-COVID Global Britain agenda.”

Bristol’s involvement builds on the University’s commitment to its city, codified in agreements with Bristol City Council and the City Office earlier this year, to take a collaborative approach to addressing society’s most pressing challenges.  It also aligns with the University’s strategic commitment to its civic mission to seek opportunities for innovation and growth by working with our city, its communities, regional industry and local government.

The 11 cities, which alongside Bristol include Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Glasgow and Belfast, already deliver 26 per cent of the UK economy and host to 40 per cent of all UK university students.

In their proposition to government ministers, the City Leaders and university Vice-Chancellors call for the establishment of new City Innovation Partnerships (CIPs) to develop targeted local R&D investment programmes. They also call for greater local flexibility in the delivery of skills, employment and job creation programmes, the introduction of a Cities Trade Package, and a new UK Urban Trade and Investment Strategy to reposition the UK internationally.

Cllr Judith Blake, Chair of Core Cities UK and Leader of Leeds City Council, said: “This is a very challenging time for both universities and our cities, but we must start to plan for a better future.

“Our core cities and their universities each have distinct industrial and research strengths. They also have enormous potential to generate innovation-led economic growth to benefit the towns and communities in their wider regions. But we need government to work with us to realise that potential.

“In what I hope will be the start of a productive dialogue with government, this joint-statement sets out how they can collaborate with local on-the-ground expertise to drive national post-COVID recovery, rebalance R&D investment, and level up the economy.

“As the UK continues to explore new global markets and opportunities post-Brexit, we also want to take advantage of our cities’ and institutions’ growing reputation as major hubs for innovation and research excellence. We invite ministers to consider our proposals carefully and meet with us to discuss a way forward.”

There are examples of powerfully engaged civic universities in action across all the Core Cities, with many having signed or pledging to sign Civic University Agreements. This new joint-declaration is designed to complement and strengthen those relationships.

The declaration published today on the Core Cities UK website, adds that government will only achieve its ambitions of level up the country if it looks to address low productivity, high deprivation and sustainability in the face of climate change in partnership with our core cities and universities.