There will be endless autopsies about 2016.

Was it the emergence of a resurgent nationalism or its death shudders? Is the ‘new reality’ epitomised by values based on individualism rather than communitarianism, and blood-ties rather than universalism? Has the onward march of globalisation, symbolised by the Internet and World Wide Web, been halted and fractured, as epitomised by the splinternet?

Of Marx’s many brilliant insights, the one that has stayed with me across my life has been that mankind makes its own history but not under conditions of its own choosing.  That combination of historical realism and practical optimism will be our guide in 2017. Productive partnerships are at heart of the National Centre’s programme. We will incubate, support and celebrate partnerships that make a real difference to the lives of business people, university employees, students and policy makers.

We are realists. Study after study demonstrates the value of the business-university-government ties, but equally there are deep, stubborn and persistent structural and cultural reasons why connectivity fails to scale or to stay scaled. And so, we are working with a host of organisations up and down the UK to try to overcome these through the thought leadership of our Council, executive (see Graeme Reid, Rosa Fernandez and myself). Everything we do is based on high-quality evidence. And we are building national digital platforms that will overcome many of the barriers for small, mid-sized and innovating firms, as well as for universities themselves.

konfer, our innovation brokerage platform developed with HEFCE, Research Councils and Innovate UK, has just been cited as an important step forward in the government’s response to Dame Ann Dowling’s report on business-university research collaboration, and we will roll out the platform in full next year. We have been working closely with university partners on BrandU, a tinder-style work experience app and we continue to drive forward on that vital initiative, and next year we will achieve a long-held ambition of developing and deepening our connections inside our membership through our workwith programme. The first workwith, was funded by BEIS and launched in the autumn.

This year has been massive for the National Centre, and I want to thank all of our people: staff, membership, board, funders and supporters. They have partnership in their DNA.

Bring on 2017.

By Dr David Docherty,National Centre CEO