Business-University Collaboration - Business, Innovation and Skills Committee Contents

1  Introduction

The UK's innovation landscape and business-university collaboration

1. The UK has a proven world-class standing in higher education and research.[1] Our universities are centres of excellence for research and leaders in education and, increasingly, they play an important role in national and regional economies. In 2011-12, the higher education sector contributed 2.8 per cent of UK Gross Domestic Product (GDP), generated over £73 billion in output and accounted for 2.7 per cent of all UK employment.[2] By collaborating with universities, business can gain access to cutting-edge research, high-tech infrastructure and highly skilled people.[3] Yet, despite these benefits, the Government has stated that "there are still too many businesses that are not reaping the rewards" of business-university collaboration.[4]

2. There have been numerous inquiries and reports addressing business and university interaction in recent years, and a considerable volume of analysis of the barriers to collaboration.[5] There have also been reviews detailing which businesses are most likely to collaborate with universities, and what forms those collaborations are likely to take.[6] These previous inquiries have found that differences across industry sectors and across higher education institutions mean there is no single model of effective collaboration, and few generally applicable solutions to the barriers that challenge interaction.[7]

This inquiry

3. We launched our inquiry into business-university collaboration in March 2014. We sought evidence relating to:

·  The strengths and weaknesses of business-university collaboration in the UK, including the UK's performance against international comparators;

·  The effectiveness of Government initiatives to support innovation through business-university collaboration;

·  Funding for innovation and business-university collaboration; and

·  The local growth agenda and business-university collaboration.

We received over 60 submissions of written evidence and we held eight oral evidence sessions, during which we heard from a range of interested parties in academia, business and government-backed innovation programmes. We thank everyone who helped with this inquiry.

4. This Report, as far as possible, avoids rehearsing the principles of the topic or focusing on individual case studies of collaboration, as a number of recent reports have already covered that territory.[8] Instead, it considers Government support for the broader innovation landscape, which creates the environment that will foster business-university collaboration, as well as suggesting where targeted and practical steps can be taken to improve existing collaboration initiatives.

5. We start by considering the work of Innovate UK, the Government's innovation agency, to support innovation. We then make recommendations about the following specific areas of work: information exchange between universities and business, funding for higher education innovation initiatives, and new or developing schemes. We conclude by outlining measures which should be taken into account in an over-arching UK Science and Innovation Strategy, which is expected to be published later in 2014.

1   See, for example: BIS, Hauser review of the Catapult network, November 2014, p29. Hermann Hauser is a technology entrepreneur who was asked by BIS to look at the future scale and scope of the Catapult network. Back

2   Universities UK, The Impact of Universities on the UK Economy, 2014, Foreword Back

3   BIS, Wilson review of business-university collaboration, February 2012, p3. Professor Sir Tim Wilson advises the Government on enterprise and entrepreneurship in universities. He carried out an independent review of business-university collaboration for BIS. Back

4   BIS, Wilson review of business-university collaboration, February 2012, p3 Back

5   See, for example: the Wilson review, February 2012, Government response to the Wilson review, June 2012, Lambert review carried out by Sir Richard Lambert for the National Centre for Universities and Business, 2003, Witty review, October 2013, carried out by Sir Andrew Witty for BIS, Science and Technology Committee, Bridging the valley of death: improving the commercialisation of research, Eighth Report of Session 2012-13, HC 348, and Insights from international benchmarking of the UK science and innovation system, BIS, January 2014 Back

6   See, for example, NCUB, Connecting with the Ivory Tower: Business Perspectives on Knowledge Exchange in the UK, November 2013 Back

7   See reports listed in footnotes 5 and 6 Back

8   See, for example, NCUB, NCUB State of the Relationship, April 2013 Back

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Prepared 28 December 2014