What’s business got to do with universities?
- Published: Friday, 20 December 2013 09:00
- Written by Prof Colin Riordan
There is much goodwill between universities and industry. We will turn this into collaboration in practice
Universities are complex organisations. Traditional centres of critical inquiry and free thinking, they remain at the forefront of the quest to further knowledge and to pass this understanding on to future generations.
But if universities are to succeed in future we must recognise the value of qualities such as entrepreneurialism, practicality and employability within the academy. We want our researchers to be tackling today’s big challenges. We don’t just want well informed and educated graduates, but well-rounded individuals ready for the workplace.
If we don’t change and grow as a sector, we will fail to meet the needs of society.
We need to adapt to the dramatic changes in the global economy. If you look at China and India, they are expected to add more than 300 million workers to the global pool by 2030. If the UK economy is to remain competitive, it needs to rely more heavily on knowledge and technology. Students and graduates will provide us with the cutting-edge research that will ensure future prosperity.
Collaboration between business and universities is an essential route to achieving economic growth. Graduate skills contribute by driving increased productivity and improving employability, all leading to rising levels of employment. The fastest-growing businesses are often found to have owners educated to at least degree level. A recent CBI survey found that 82% of employers identified students’ employability skills when asked what universities should prioritise.
Collaboration works for businesses too: they gain access to the latest research, and to innovative new talent through our students and graduates. They can influence the design of degrees, so graduates leave university with the skills that their businesses need now and will need in the future.
Universities that connect with business gain access to potential private funding for research, help realise the commercial value of research, and provide opportunities for student entrepreneurs.
It’s a compelling case. That’s why Cardiff University is working closely with local businesses, local government and research funders to ensure that we consider enterprise and innovation in the work that our university does.
By embedding enterprise into courses across the University we will find new answers to global challenges. We’ve helped Cardiff students establish more than 100 new ventures and turn over more than £12m in businesses, marketing anything from pre-mixed frozen cocktails to the latest male grooming products.
Crucial too is creating businesses out of our world-leading research. Our intellectual property commercialisation company, Fusion IP, has enabled more than £33m to be invested in spin-out and start-up businesses making the most of our academic research findings.
This is only the start. A great deal remains to be done to improve business-university collaboration. I believe there is an enormous amount of goodwill from both universities and business to make this happen. We are determined to translate this goodwill into practice.
Colin Riordan is Vice-Chancellor of Cardiff University
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