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May 28, 2013

We Have The Means To Change The World For The Better

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

Image. A sculpture commemorating the life of one of the scientists who discovered the double helix structure of DNA.
A blog post by Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz FRS, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge

Although any individual and organisation might change the world, universities are positively expected to do so. Through our teaching we change individual lives as a matter of routine; through our research, time after time, we change the way the world works.

Not only that, but we change it, consistently, for the better. 'To contribute to society' is not only part of a formal mission statement (of my university and many others), but it resonates in the daily activities of our staff and students.

Universities are rightly regarded as critical national assets. Governments the world over see them as vital sources of new knowledge and innovative thinking, as providers of skilled personnel and credible credentials, as critical friends and auditors of policies, as attractors of international talent and business investment, as agents of social justice and mobility, and as contributors to social and cultural vitality. We store knowledge and pass it from one generation to another, we are part of the civic establishment, and we are national and regional symbols. No other sort of organisation has such an astonishing remit, and no other sort of organization delivers such indispensable benefits to society.

How on earth to we manage all this? I offer three answers. Firstly, we integrate knowledge. Universities' disciplinary scope is, naturally enough, universal. Within the creative diversity of a university community, we can support scholars working across the disciplinary spectrum: those who work alone in libraries and with databases, deepening their, and our, understanding of a focused topic; and those who work in teams in laboratories and in the field. Their work would be of immense value on its own, but as integrative institutions we can also make connections between them, making the whole genuinely greater than the sum of the parts and marshalling expertise to address problems bigger than any single scholar's or research group’s capacity.

Secondly, we cleave to autonomy. The single greatest inhibitor of transformative excellence is excessive direction of ideas. We create autonomy within our institutions, and defend our institutional autonomy in wider society. The greatest biological discovery of the twentieth century was made in a physics laboratory: it is wholly imaginable that Crick and Watson’s collaboration might have been derailed by overzealous tidiness in internal structures and a line-management direction of research. (I am pleased that Cambridge is rarely accused of either!) Externally, we loudly and rightly assert our independence from governments and from other funders, including industry.

And thirdly, we are constantly relevant, both adapting to the society which we serve, and shaping it. Creating economic growth at home, and addressing poverty and hunger in developing countries, are among the pressing urgencies facing global society, and universities like mine are quick, and keen, to respond: we have both the capacity and the will to do so, in ways that are creative, productive, and surprising. The world does not look to its universities for predictable tweaks and short-term fixes, but for challenging, ground-breaking, world-bridging innovation.

It is a matter of fierce pride to all of us who work in universities that with astonishing frequency - though not regularity or predictability - we contribute ideas, technologies, and concepts that shatter preconceptions and change the world for the better.

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: A sculpture commemorating the life of one of the scientists who discovered the double helix structure of DNA. As students at Cambridge, Francis Crick, who was born in Weston Favell, Northampton and American James Watson both unlocked the key of life in 1953. The scientists, along with Maurice Wilkins, were awarded a Nobel Prize in 1962 for their work on DNA. The steel sculpture called Discovery is installed in Abington Street, Northampton. Source: (Flickr)

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Image. Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz University of Cambridge. In 2010, Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz became the 345th Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge having previously been Chief Executive of the UK's Medical Research Council from 2007 and Principal of the Faculty of Medicine at Imperial College London. Professor Borysiewicz was knighted in the 2001 New Year's Honours List for his contribution to medical education and research into developing vaccines.





May 23, 2013

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.


May 21, 2013

Fundamental Curiosity: The Dynamic Of The University

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

Image. Rodin

A Q and A with Professor Tim Jones, Pro Vice-Chancellor: Research (Science and Medicine), Knowledge Transfer and Business Engagement, University of Warwick.


What do you think is the most under-hyped, yet significant, change universities in the UK will undergo during the next decade?

I don’t know if it’s necessarily under-hyped but I think the private provision of higher education will completely change the dynamic in the future. I think a number of universities will be threatened very significantly. Private provision will expand and will change the way universities have to behave and operate in a very, very significant way.

And do you think global providers have an advantage?

Almost certainly yes, I mean the US is a classic example, and I think the UK is behind the curve with this certainly compared to some countries.

Open-access research: is the UK shooting itself in the foot or are we leading the way?

There is no doubt that open access research is a great thing in principle, however I think being first is not necessarily a good thing. So I would argue we are shooting ourselves in the foot because I don’t necessarily see the rest of the world following. I think the UK is going to be in a very difficult position.

The University of Warwick is hosting the 2013 Global University Summit in May, which will issue a formal declaration on higher education to the G8. If you could get one commitment from the summit of world leaders, what would that be?

It would be to ensure that universities remain establishments of academic research and scholarships and are no skewed too much by the agendas of governments around the world, where economic growth seems to be the raison d’être for the existence of universities. Don’t skew universities too much towards being engines of economic growth; don’t change the dynamic of the way the university operates. Don’t discriminate against intellectual, fundamental, curiosity driven education and research that continues to attract the very very best students and academics, who are free thinkers and are not constrained by government thinking and policy.

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: Auguste Rodin's Le Penseur (The Thinker). Source: (Flickr).
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Image Professor Tim Jones, University of WarwickAs Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Knowledge Transfer and Business Engagement, Professor Tim Jones has responsibility for development of the University of Warwick’s knowledge transfer and business engagement strategy to support the University’s research and teaching ambitions through corporate level regional, national and international relationships with business partners. He also works with the Registrar and Chief Operating Officer to maximise the impact of the University HEIF allocations and lead engagements with relevant external bodies.He also has responsibility for the University’s Science research strategy, including the development of research opportunities and collaborations both nationally and internationally and the raising of research income, publications and citation scores in the Faculty of Science.


May 19, 2013

The International Race: The Forefront of International Higher Education

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

Image. 31st Annual Freihofer

A blog post by Professor Eric Thomas, Vice-Chancellor, University of Bristol

Higher education is an international enterprise. Our comparators, and our competitors, are found all over the world. At my own university, Bristol, we have staff and students from 112 countries. 30 per cent of our students and around 14 per cent of our staff are from outside the UK. We have partnerships in many countries around the world and each year we help about 500 students go abroad as part of their degrees We’re in the business of educating global citizens.

That is one reason why the Global University Summit is such an important event in the higher education calendar.

It is particularly important for us in the UK at this moment because, like so many other countries, we are in the middle of a period of serious fiscal retrenchment. As government looks to reduce, all UK government budget areas (with the exception of schools, the NHS and international development) are facing substantial cuts.

Growth
Our job is to explain that we are in an international race and that the search for elusive growth depends, to a considerable extent, on our ability to stay at the forefront of international higher education.

If we don’t, highly mobile students and academic staff have the world to choose from. The pull of world-class universities encourages businesses to invest in the UK, helps companies grow, and underpins the infrastructure which supports them, including the essential public services.

Universities are also a fantastic advertisement for the UK. Anywhere you go in the world you will find leaders in all parts of public life who were educated here. That creates a network of priceless importance to the UK. It opens up diplomatic and commercial opportunities that cannot be under-estimated. The influence is not only about past links. At almost any point in time, a UK academic will be standing on a platform somewhere promoting the ideas we are generating.

Innovations
We know that university research contributes to UK competitiveness in a range of ways – not only the obvious technological innovations like 3G mobile, a product of Bristol research.

In my view, the major contribution universities make to the economy is through people. 3,800 educated, talented and motivated graduates emerge from the University of Bristol every year. They all have subject-specific knowledge, but more importantly they have the ability to think critically, to challenge received opinion and, we hope, the confidence to drive change.

Employees
That’s one of the reasons why, according to NESTA, innovative businesses have more than double the share of employees with degrees than business categorised as ‘non-innovative’. It goes some way to explaining why the UK economy is becoming increasingly dependent on graduates - a trend which looks likely to continue as the proportion of jobs which require lower skill levels continues to shrink.

And although such companies make up just six per cent of the total number of businesses in the UK, they accounted for 54 per cent of jobs growth between 2002 and 2005.

The political debate in the UK is dominated by deficit reduction, and growth, and the complex relationship between the two. The next election will be won and lost on economic confidence. Spending decisions for 2015-16 will set the tone and the government will be judged on how it balances investment for growth with retrenchment for deficit reduction.

Our job, as our government gears up for some extremely difficult spending decisions is to convince them that this is precisely the wrong moment to cut back on education and research. We’re part of the answer, not part of the problem.

That’s why government must invest in universities.

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: 31st Annual Freihofer's Run for Women. Source (Flickr).

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Image. Professor Eric Thomas, Vice-Chancellor, University of BristolProfessor Eric Thomas, Vice-Chancellor, University of Bristol

Professor Eric Thomas has been Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bristol since September 2001. He graduated in Medicine from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in 1976 and proceeded to obtain his MD by thesis in research into endometriosis in 1987. He trained as an obstetrician and gynaecologist and worked at both the universities of Sheffield and Newcastle. In 1991 he was appointed Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Southampton and then became Head of the School of Medicine there in 1995 and Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Health and Biological Sciences in 1998. He was a consultant gynaecologist from 1987 to 2001.


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