Memorandum submitted by the University
of Hertfordshire |
The University of Hertfordshire is pioneering
a "business-facing" mission and is committed to being
at the forefront of both the high-level skills and the innovation
agendas. We believe these are closely inter-linked.
The University is focused on supporting wealth-creating
companies in R&D, innovation and high-level skills development
activities. Located within one of the highest concentrations of
knowledge-based industries in the country, the University is well-placed
to support and influence the development of value-added sectors
of the economy.
In essence, this is about focusing on
how we serve the needs of business and our students, both in the
UK and internationally. From equipping world-class graduates with
the right mix of academic and practical skills, to providing support
and innovative solutions to businesses, Hertfordshire concentrates
on empowering its stakeholders to meet the demands of the regional,
national and global skills economies.
To this end, the Vice-Chancellor has
been involved in the Sainsbury Review of Science and Innovation
Policies, leading to the University of Hertfordshire being highlighted
as a model example of a business-facing university. Hertfordshire
is also one of the six universities, chosen by HEFCE to take forward
a new business-facing model of HEI.
It is our partnership with business that
provides us with a valuable insight into the five areas of discussion
addressed below, which we would like the Select Committee to consider
as part of its Inquiry into: "Creating a higher value-added
Q1 What is meant by a high value-added
economy? What business activities qualify as such?
The University of Hertfordshire would
endorse the CBI's view that R&D is only one input into innovation.
"Knowledge investment" is made in many
ways, including investments in human capital, building organisational
capability, incremental innovation, process improvement and reputation
/ branding. It is critically important that innovation does not
become understood in a narrow scientific/technological R&D
It follows from this that universities
can support innovation in different ways. While a corporation
may wish to commission exploratory investigative work from a research-intensive
university, the same company may also want to work with a business-facing
institution on exploitation, business processes or other aspects
of innovation. Business-facing universities will also play a critical
role in supporting innovation with the SME community, who can
access the problem-solving capability of a university focused
on and able to respond to business need across a wide range of
issues. The University of Hertfordshire model of engagement with
SMEs, which includes ownership of its local BusinessLink, as well
as provision of incubation space and extensive KTP involvement,
is one we would be pleased to explore with the Committee.
Q7 The progress that has been made
on university-business co-operation and knowledge transfer since
the publication of the Lambert Review in December 2003
The University of Hertfordshire's Vice-Chancellor
was a key contributor to the working group on this topic that
reported to the DIUS Funders' Forum in September. The group concluded
that while in the main the system is working well, there were
some important issues around the (over-)valuation of IP, clarity
of messages from Government and the negotiating processes engaged
in prior to collaboration. We would urge the Committee to consider
the findings of the report, based on expert evidence and analysis
from academic and industry stakeholders.
Progress has been made since the Lambert Review,
and certainly the emergence of business-facing universities is
evidence of a significant degree of culture change within part
of the HE sector. Funding streams have provided a level of incentive
for institutions with an appropriate mission and focus to pursue
employer engagement, knowledge transfer (although we would prefer
"knowledge exchange" as an explicit acknowledgement
of the two-way nature of the process) and innovation-related activities.
The extent of sector-wide change is demonstrated by HEFCE-produced
statistics on university-business interaction.
However, both QA and funding systems
have inhibited the agility and responsiveness of universities
and are a particular concern to those institutions taking a clear
business-facing mission. A challenge in creating a higher value-added
economy will be to create an operational framework that allows
creative and entrepreneurial universities to be responsive to
the business needs of innovative companies.
Q8 Whether business and government
interpret innovation too narrowly
We would argue that, historically, the
emphasis on research has not allowed the UK to develop its commercialisation
capacitythat is, our capacity to translate new and existing
knowledge and technology into new and better solutions.
A new focus on "innovation" has the potential
to address this issue. The CBI submission uses the term "servicisation
of technology"transforming technology into a workable
service offering. We see a key role for business-facing universities
in supporting businesses to apply and optimise knowledge and technology.
Incremental innovation can take businesses of all sizes forward
and should not be undervalued compared to more radical steps.
Q9 What the government can do to promote
higher value-added business activities and innovative thinking
among UK businesses
Universities, and particularly those
focused on the needs of business, will be key agents in any knowledge
economy. While certain sectors and certain types of business will
be well linked in to universities, there remains a pervasive lack
of awareness among UK companies of the breadth of what HE can
offer (9% of UK businesses are linked to a university). Any means
by which contact can be encouraged by Government is to be welcomed,
and we would support the CBI's call for a "first engagement
voucher", as a pilot initially.
We would again point to the Funders' Forum report
and the importance of clear messages on the purpose of collaborative
activities for universities. A steer from Government that generating
institutional income from research exploitation is not the highest
priority for universities may help to encourage greater openness
to collaborations with industry.
Q11 The effectiveness of machinery
of government arrangements in encouraging innovation and creativity
The creation of DIUS is a positive development
and should help to release more of the potential of universities
to contribute to innovation and growth. Universities have a broader
role to play than the generation of new knowledge through "breakthrough
science"; HEIs' support of process improvement, incremental
innovation, training and development will bring significant benefits
to economy and society.
The Technology Strategy Board has a key role. Its
location adjacent to the Research Councils should help to develop
synergies with their work, for example in knowledge transfer,
but its mission and purpose are distinct. Clear messages from
Government on this will help to prevent mission drift.
There is a tension inherent in RDAs between
their economic development and regeneration remits. Differential
funding supports those regions with the greatest regeneration
needs at the expense of those that generate wealth through innovation
and creativity. Yet the regions of the Greater South East exhibit
the greatest levels of innovation and researchthe lifeblood
of knowledge-based industries. This system does not allow these
regionsthe only net contributors to the national balance
sheetto give their Science and Industry Councils access
to a pool of money appropriate to the scale of potential regional
investments in high value-added activities. Continued under-investment
in wealth-creating regions and their innovation activities will
have a detrimental effect on the capacity of the UK economy to
support vital regeneration work.
Regional structures can also inhibit
the cross-border working and collaboration that business needs.
Business, and perhaps especially innovative companies, do not
and cannot recognise administrative boundaries; regional borders
must not inhibit the formation of the kind of partnerships that
Coherence between regional and national
approaches will be a priority and the Sainsbury Review has addressed
this issue to some extent. The current configuration of RDAs does
not incentivise them to think in terms of competition rather than
complementarity. The CBI submission proposes that each region
may take the lead on a specific aspect of innovation/technology,
others supporting. A mechanism would be needed whereby regional
and national government could establish priority areas for regional
leadership and which region had the best fit each area in terms
of its own needs and strengths.
We would support in principle a plan
to bring coherence to the innovation agendas at national and regional
level; such an approach would help to boost innovation and excellence
by focusing resources, both financial and intellectual, and remove
the potentially detrimental element of competition between regions.