The need for businesses to adopt a global outlook has never been more crucial. Despite the rise of narrow nationalist agendas in some countries, the opportunities to trade and work overseas will grow and become more competitive. China’s Silk Road policy will drive trade in Asia, Africa and across Europe to the UK. For those willing to engage, the opportunities are immense. Those businesses that do not will become ever more irrelevant.

For the UK, the issue is highlighted by the uncertain consequences of Brexit, for both trade and skills. Consequently, UK businesses will need to diversify their trade and learn to deal with EU countries in a different manner.

Large companies have the experience and resources to engage internationally, however it is considerably more difficult for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as they do not have the experience or time to strategically plan and operationalise their international engagement.

I recently suggested in Wonkhe that universities are an under-utilised resource that can help businesses. UK universities are undoubtedly big international players, not only do 19% of their students come from outside the UK, but so do 29.5% of their staff members. UK universities are also confident in operating overseas. At Brunel University London, 58% of research papers have an overseas author, demonstrating that international collaboration is vital to modern research.

Universities use their international reach to support small businesses; at Brunel we help small automotive businesses engage in India and China. Universities can and do act as magnets for inward investment by large overseas companies, benefiting the local supply chains, as is seen in Sheffield with Boeing. Furthermore, overseas students bring skills and knowledge to local businesses during their work placements and research projects. At Brunel, we are increasingly choosing potential international university partners, in part because of their business connections, but also for collaborative opportunities for Research, student placements and knowledge transfer.

There are many ways universities and businesses should work together to drive up international engagement. Universities, who are rooted in their local setting, can bring a global reach to their local communities.

For the full article exploring these issues in more depth see Wonkhe.

By Andrew George, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Education and International) at Brunel University London