An online brokerage system would provide the simple solution suggested by Sir Andrew Witty

For small businesses, the world of higher education can be baffling affair. The jargon is often impenetrable to outsiders, and research projects are often kept under wraps until publication. And for small business leaders, the benefits of working with universities are not always immediately obvious.

Equally, businesses are not always great at ensuring they can make sense of university research or able to pin down that elusive ‘something’ that will drive their business forward. With universities now firmly committed to growing prosperity in the UK, which in part means helping businesses innovate, we must ensure high quality dialogue and activity between them both.

In his report, Sir Andrew Witty rightly suggested that a simple point of access for businesses to engage with universities would help to improve the relationship between the two sectors.

I would go a step further. To bring together universities and business we need to bring the relationship into the 21st century with an online brokerage system through which business leaders looking for support from academics, those wanting to benefit from the world-class research carried out in higher education institutions across the UK, can find a way in.

This would be a simple, trusted, user-friendly network and platform that sees the relationship as a partnership, with benefits for both sides.

The National Centre for Universities and Business is already starting to explore such a service, working collaboratively with the UK’s funding and research councils and the Technology Strategy Board to join together institutions and industrial partners. We are bringing the expertise of academics and business to bear on the big questions of our age, and finding out how the two sectors can work together most efficiently and effectively. We are also using our website to spread good news about successful partnerships between universities and their local businesses.

To do this we need your support. Let us know how your university is partnering with business, and the challenges you face. If you’re a local business owner, tell us what support you’d like from university researchers – and what’s stopping you getting it. Most of all, share your ideas through us for new ways to collaborate. We’ll help you set them in motion.