There is a lot of discussion about the relationship between world class, research-intensive universities and economic and social prosperity. It is essential that we fully utilize the intellectual capital and intellectual property from universities in the business sector, third sector and public sector, if we are to propel the UK into a period of sustainable growth. For any entrepreneur or organization not currently working closely with universities here are some ways in which you can work with academia to help start, develop and grow your business.
1. Academic consultants can provide business solutions
Universities have immense intellectual capital available and can provide small, medium and large enterprises with access to unique skills to help address specific problems. If you need a language expert, a film-maker, a chemist, a medic, an engineer or an architect – in the UK you can find an expert who can help you. This is an amazing and cost effective resource for almost any organization.
2. Universities can provide access to specialist equipment and infrastructure.
Universities operate a mixed business model based on education, research and enterprise. Moreover they operate across many domains and therefore often have a critical mass of expensive and highly valuable physical infrastructure. So if you are running a business and need access to facilities – computational laboratories, science laboratories, engineering facilities, workshops, microscopes, language laboratories, museums, collections, archives, etc. – they will most likely be available somewhere in a UK university.
3. Research collaboration can enhance business competitiveness.
UK universities are knowledge and innovation superclusters – powerhouses of research excellence and with an unsurpassed ability to connect people across disciplines. In research-intensive universities it is possible to take ideas, techniques and methods in one area and apply them directly to others. This is at the heart of innovation – which is essential for a knowledge economy. Many knowledge-based corporations understand the value of research collaborations with universities – either to create new knowledge (and products) or to solve specific research problems. We know that the constant generation of new knowledge, intellectual property and business models – is essential for a globally leading economy. Research collaborations can provide short-term solutions, but the most productive partnerships are often those that are based on a long-term relationship.
4. Universities generate a skilled workforce
Many thousands of highly talented university graduates emerge from their courses every year. They are energetic, bright, enthusiastic, creative and often have great technical expertise. So if you are starting a business, changing your model, or upscaling – then universities offer a wonderful talent pool. Developing an ongoing programme of student secondments can be a very effective way of maintaining contact, helping students gain experience and identifying new staff for your organisation.
5. A world class workforce needs ongoing professional development
Maintaining competitiveness relies on the dedication and expertise of staff and it is vital that businesses remain informed about cutting edge technological advancements and the emergence of new business models. Many of these developments come from within universities and so short courses (CPD accredited or otherwise) can be a cost effective way of keeping up to date and enhancing the effectiveness of your staff and your business.
We have created a world class university sector, which contributes billions to the UK economy – and we should not forget that universities are themselves large enterprises. At a time of economic uncertainty it is no surprise that many countries are increasing funding to universities as a sound business proposition - many seek to emulate the success of the UK. Our future economic prosperity is critically dependent on current and future generations of students and staff who generate new ideas, new ways of working, new knowledge and new businesses.
Universities have developed a variety of sophisticated methods for effective knowledge exchange – however we must strive to break down any remaining barriers to such co-operation – because there has never been a more important time for businesses and universities to work together.
These activities have the ability to enhance the core academic imperatives and to serve as a springboard for growth. Universities are critical for long-term social and economic prosperity for the UK – and working in partnership with external organizations is vital for us to deliver that vision.