All entries for Thursday 23 May 2013

May 23, 2013

The Art of Partnership

Writing about web page http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/knowledge/business/gus


Image. University of Southampton WSA Degree Show Preparation 2008

A blog post by Dame Helen Alexander, Chancellor of the University of Southampton

The greatest collaborations between industry and universities involve true partnership. Developing these partnerships, however, is a slow process, and needs to be carefully nurtured.

The University of Southampton, where I am chancellor, experiences the whole range of interactions with business at regional, national and international levels. The first, and the hardest to quantify, is the production of highly educated and trained people. Degree programmes and professional training all develop people with the skills and qualities which businesses need. As with many universities, there are companies who rely on our university to produce the graduates they require, and many work with us on developing the curricula or offering work experience.

Companies with good experience of a university, and the graduates it produces, often take the next step in the relationship; they identify individual projects where the university can help their business to develop further. To be successful, universities must see such contract research as a key part of their mission. They need both academic staff who understand and can deliver to business requirements and timescales, and processes which make such contract research easier to deliver within a busy university environment. The universities who are best at doing this, Southampton included, have developed this capability over many decades. They need staff with significant experience in working with companies, and often have dedicated units for contract research. It is essential that these units stay deeply connected to the rest of the university, and can draw upon expertise from across the disciplines.

True partnerships between companies and universities come after many years of working together, where a synergy develops as both sides understand the other’s needs. Sometimes the company in question has a standard model for how to do this. Rolls Royce, for instance, has established University Technology Centres in higher education institutions (HEIs) across the world, each focussing on a different set of technological or engineering problems. The University of Southampton hosts two such centres (in gas turbine noise and computational engineering). Other major companies such as Microsoft, BAE and Unilever do the same.

The strongest partnerships of all are achieved when a company and a university find they are almost mutually co-dependent, and both adapt their own systems and structures to make the partnership stronger. In Southampton, we have a relationship with Lloyd’s Register dating back more than 40 years, which has passed through all of the stages outlined above. As a result, we are, together, constructing a new campus, which will co-locate 400 engineers from Lloyd’s Register, with engineers and scientists from the University. The two partners are sharing the £115m cost in a project heralded as the largest such business-focused endeavour in any UK university. And we are now using that development as a platform to work with them in Singapore, in the USA and around the world.

Such partnerships bring some of the greatest business impacts from universities. Partnership brings huge rewards, but is hard, time-consuming and involves compromise. You only become the partner of someone you know well. The trust, the confidence, the comfort of working together in this way builds slowly. You can’t rush it.

This blog is part of a regular series on the Knowledge Centre looking at issues in higher education ahead of the Global University Summit (May 28-30 2013), hosted by the University of Warwick in Whitehall, London. As part of the Summit, a declaration of commitment and policy recommendations will be drawn up for the G8 summit of world leaders, taking place in Northern Ireland in June.

Image: Southampton University WSA Degree Show Preparation 2008. Source: (Flickr)

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Image. Dame Helen Alexander University of SouthamptonDame Helen Alexander, Chancellor of the University of Southampton, chairman of UBM plc, Incisive Media and the Port of London Authority. Dame Helen was president of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) until June 2011. Dame Helen was chief executive of the Economist Group until 2008, having joined the company in 1985 and been managing director of the Economist Intelligence Unit from 1993 to 1997.




The Research Triangle

Writing about web page http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/knowledge/business/gus

Image. Penrose triangle

A blog post by Simon Bradley, Vice-President of EADS

In 2012, Sir Tim Wilson recommended the creation of a new centre based on university and industry collaboration, a place to share best practice across industrial sectors as well as encouraging companies who traditionally do not enter this model, usually smaller to medium size, to see the real value of such collaborations. Overall aims included the gathering and maintaining of a comprehensive repository of good practice, the undertaking of commissioned studies and a place to provide reliable information sources for future substantive reviews on the topic. In 2013, this recommendation was delivered with the opening of the National Centre for Universities & Business (NCUB) – run under the auspices of the Council for Industry and Higher Education (CIHE).

Why is this important to us? For EADS, upstream investment (TRL 1–4) is vital to the success of the group and has enabled us to design and build truly historic products, from the engines on-board the LZ-1 Zeppelin (which flew in 1900), to the world’s first commercial radio broadcast in 1920 or Concorde in 1969 and the Airbus A380 today. Worldwide, we are ranked as the thirtieth largest-spending company worldwide in R&D, at €3.9bn (Rank position from 2012). When the Department for Business Innovation & Skills produced its UK R&D scorecard report, listing the 1,000 top UK and global companies, based upon R&D investment, EADS was ranked number one (including its subsidiaries Airbus, Cassidian, Eurocopter and Astrium) based on foreign-owned (as defined by BIS) R&D investment in the UK.

So what is the problem? Finding the jewels that transfer from ideas into real technology that delivers business benefit is a non-exact science, which requires all parties to understand the value of failure as well as that of success. For every project that delivers there are perhaps five, ten or even 100 that do not. Critical breakthroughs happen in our labs but crucially they also happen in universities, SMEs and other companies – we need to be able to locate, nurture and integrate these breakthrough technologies in a manner that benefits all stakeholders. We need to engender trust relationships so that long terms partnerships can flourish and people are open to sharing their technology. How do we do this?

In Wales we have pioneered the EADS Foundation for Wales, a not-for profit, limited by guarantee company, which has a triangle of stakeholders – industry, academia and government. This foundation encourages anyone with an idea to pitch their technology within a number of grand challenges; these are defined as areas of importance to industry and also to Wales. Each stakeholder contributes, either cash or in-kind resource, and external SMEs, academics and others can apply for funding through a wave process that allows very quick decision making and incremental awards based on results. The key to the success of the Foundation is adopting a trust relationship; all background IP is respected and any new IP created is placed under the ownership of the Foundation. Once a project is ready for exploitation, the IP can then be purchased at an independently valued market rate.

The next stage, for Wales, is to roll out this Foundation model across other sectors, not just aerospace and defence, encouraging other large companies to invest into this model and increase the Welsh SME eco-system, feeding into the supply chains of the major companies and providing a means for smaller companies to work with academia and perform real R&D without using up precious funding.

This blog is part of a regular series on the Knowledge Centre looking at issues in higher education ahead of the Global University Summit (May 28-30 2013), hosted by the University of Warwick in Whitehall, London. As part of the Summit, a declaration of commitment and policy recommendations will be drawn up for the G8 summit of world leaders, taking place in Northern Ireland in June.

Image: Penrose Triangle. Source: (Flickr)
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Image. Simon Bradley, EADS, standing next to a DalekSimon Bradley started his career with British Airways before becoming part of the design team for the system architecture behind the secure communications platform at No. 10 Downing Street. After the successful implementation of the system he joined the United Nations. Simon Bradley joined EADS in 2006 and, in 2011, Simon started his latest challenge working for the Global Innovation Network team within the Office of the Chief Technical Officer, Dr Jean Botti. Simon is a visiting Professor at Aberystwyth University(Prifysgol Aberystwyth) in Wales, a member of the Scientific Advisory Council for Wales and is a regular keynote speaker at conferences on systems engineering, homeland security and innovation.


Inherently Global: Higher Education and Economic Impact

Writing about web page http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/knowledge/business/gus

Image. Stars and planes across the Toronto skyline


A blog post by Dr Joanna Newman, Director, UK Higher Education International Unit

A world-class higher education system is essential for growth and competitiveness in a global knowledge economy. An excellent modern higher education system demands internationalisation in staff, students, partners and outlook. Many UK universities are already leading global enterprises in their own right. With fierce and growing global competition in higher education, and no fat to cut in the highly productive UK system, the need to collaborate with international partners is greater than ever.

As institutions rooted in their communities, they draw visitors, businesses and investment to their cities and regions and act as anchors for skills and enterprise. A high-tech cluster is a rare phenomenon, but every ten international university students in the UK support six local jobs.

Higher education alone is one of the UK’s largest export earners, at over £8 billion a year, and has the potential to more than double in value by 2025. Research and innovation, the key drivers of long term productivity, are already inherently global. Universities are central to attracting and retaining globally mobile investment (and 23 per cent of UK R&D is from abroad, more than any large economy). Just as importantly, they attract and network global talent. Students considering their prospects in an increasingly globalised labour market are realising that future employers will expect the cultural agility to communicate and work with members of a cosmopolitan team, so offering outbound international experience will be important to attracting domestic students and creating global employable graduates.

The UK higher education sector’s leading position, second in the world as a study destination and for research quality, is an asset for one country that brings economic benefits around the world; improving employment rates and wages for returning graduates, assisting international development and building the capacity of emerging powers. Sharing a home with international universities gives business access to talent and new knowledge, the capacity to absorb innovation from elsewhere and the contacts to trade. The government scholarship schemes launched by fast-growing nations show that higher education mobility is an investment priority of the innovation economies of the future.

Universities’ links with other academics, industry or policy makers are often the leading edge of wider international collaboration. Indeed, the World Wide Web itself had its origins in improving international research collaboration. Links between universities and business are vital, growing and global, but the largest and most transformative economic impacts from higher education come precisely because the core mission of universities is to create and impart knowledge. This essential mission creates relationships of trust that can endure short-term market fluctuations, and innovate far ahead of a market application.

This blog is part of a regular series on the Knowledge Centre looking at issues in higher education ahead of the Global University Summit (May 28-30 2013), hosted by the University of Warwick in Whitehall, London. As part of the Summit, a declaration of commitment and policy recommendations will be drawn up for the G8 summit of world leaders, taking place in Northern Ireland in June.

Image: Stars and Planes. Source: (Flickr).

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Image. Dr Joanna NewmanDr Joanna Newman represents the International Unit on the International Education Advisory Forum, is a board member of the School of Advanced Studies and regularly represents the sector on national and international platforms. She is an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Southampton and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.


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