University/industry collaborations bring innovation in the UK to the fore
Collaboration is at the heart of any successful business these days. An innovative idea could easily get lost in a sea of others put forward by other equally passionate entrepreneurs. And with technology removing the limits of geographical boundaries, businesses are no longer just competing with their peers down the road.
The value research and innovation are derived from across a business ecosystem in which organisations collaborate with their partners, customers, suppliers, and other organisations.
in the past, business leaders may have held back from approaching higher education, viewing institutions as towers of knowledge where academics simply did not know the realities of life in the maelstrom that is business.
This is all changing, as universities open their doors to industry and increase the level and number of opportunities open to businesses of all sizes.
In the UK, this growth looks set to continue, with the government recently announcing that academic-industry collaboration is at the heart of their new research and innovation strategy.
This is further emphasised by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFWC) in its new vision for Wales, where it listed research excellence, partnerships, innovation and collaboration as four key pillars that will drive economic prosperity and social wellbeing across the country, the UK and beyond.
The results of these efforts are already proving impressive – spurring innovation and opening new markets. According to the UKRI, smaller companies particularly benefit from university collaboration when it comes to innovation.
KESS 2, led by Bangor University focuses on creating a culture of academic collaboration for your business
Higher education and governing bodies alike are recognising the innate value in academic-industry partnerships and as these increase in scale and volume across the higher education landscape, navigating funding applications naturally becomes easier and less complex.
Schemes like the Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships (KESS 2) are supporting academic collaboration as a core pillar in a business, rather than an afterthought.
KESS 2 works to put this world-class capability to good use, linking businesses with academic expertise. The initiative pairs individual organisations with academics and PhD or Research Masters postgraduate researchers in a relevant field.
The obvious immediate benefit of this is that the postgraduate researcher gets valuable industry experience, while the organisation gets workable solutions that can take their business to the next level.
Projects are designed in close partnership with the company, making it possible to find the expertise that may be lacking in-house and gain fresh ideas on problems – one of the major benefits gained from a new perspective.
With higher education’s sizeable resources and world-class knowledge at their disposal, it doesn’t take long for participants on the KESS 2 scheme to see some real material benefits.
The potential return following the project is far greater than the cost of the project itself. The innovative new ideas and added expertise that arise from the initiative can set a business apart in a crowded marketplace, positioning them as a voice of authority in their field.
Given that KESS 2 is specific to Wales, the project must fit within one (or more) of the Welsh Government’s four Grand Challenge Areas, which include Life Sciences & Health, Advanced Engineering & Materials, Low Carbon, Energy & Environment, and ICT & The Digital Economy.
Working in tandem with a postgraduate researcher and a university department goes a long way in growing the collaborative research culture within a company and helps employees and leaders see new potential.
This significantly increases the research capacity of SMEs and encourages CEOs to see research as a valuable business component. This new appreciation lasts long after the project is finished, with businesses maintaining closer ties with their local universities and also choosing to recruit more researchers to join the company.
The benefits of this resulting culture of collaboration reach beyond an individual company, improving graduate employment, and leading to the development of key technologies in sectors where this is needed.
Through programmes like KESS 2, companies are increasingly embracing academic collaboration as an essential part of any successfully growing business; this is not surprising when the results of such collaborations show the potential to uncover new revenue streams, open up new markets, and instil in the workforce an appreciation for research and innovation.
University/Industry research partnerships achieve breakthroughs in education at Queen Mary University
Queen Mary is a leading research-intensive university, ranked fifth in the UK for quality of research output, and ranked third in the world for research citations in medicine, as listed in the QS World University Rankings 2019.
The university leads on commercial technology transfer and has a proven record of success as a science incubator. Its QMB Innovation Centre is a vast 39,000 square foot premium laboratory and research space located in Whitechapel, East London.
The centre is the largest of its kind in London — an ideal location not only for life science, clinical, environmental, clean-tech, and nanotechnology companies looking to expand but also for start-up and later-stage businesses seeking an entrepreneurial base for laboratory and commercial work.
Located close to the City of London financial district and its excellent transport links, the centre offers flexible laboratory spaces for a variety of projects and scientific approaches. Its fully customisable commercial laboratories support both biology and chemistry work, able to accommodate almost any equipment.
The centre facilitates commercial and laboratory work with its laboratory and write-up space, fitted laboratories to biosafety level 2, and capacity for microbiological safety cabinets and chemistry fume cupboards.
The state-of-the-art innovation centre also offers communal facilities, including access to meeting rooms and networking facilities, a 120-seat lecture theatre, and a large boardroom.
Queen Mary research partnerships focus on new uses of artificial intelligence in game design, with a research team connected with the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Intelligent Games and Game Intelligence (IGGI), the world’s largest PhD research programme for game development.
Queen Mary University’s Institute of Applied Data Science hosts leading researchers in various science and technology fields. Expertise at the institute ranges from pioneering computer vision science to emerging technology related to medical decision making.
Brunel Hive Executive Learning: Empowering growth-hungry businesses
Part of the Brunel Business School and driven by the institution’s growing reputation as a ‘university for a changing world’, Brunel Hive Executive Learning was created to “engineer the growth of businesses” across London and to facilitate their internationalisation in economies across Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.
The Go for Growth programme was created for this purpose, offering busy business leaders the opportunity to pick up critical finance and management knowledge to help them meet their growth challenges.
“Running a successful business means mastering planning, marketing and sales; delivering products and services; understanding finance; and recruiting and managing people,” says a facilitator of the programme.
“Since most people only have experience in limited areas prior to running their own business, they end up creating another job for themselves.
“Ideally, you need to create an enterprise that excels in all areas of the business and grows with or without your 24/7 attention. To get there you would need to learn and master a wide range of business skills while still running the business day-to-day.”
Go for Growth meets this need, with sessions designed so that business leaders need not slacken the reins at work while attending workshops.
The programme also combines academic expertise with real-world knowledge to help growth-hungry businesses define and deliver their scale-up objectives. This means training is delivered by a good mix of academics and industry heads, offering participants opportunities to network with key business leaders and to learn from their experiences.
*Some of the institutions featured in this article are commercial partners of U2B