As the new Prime Minister takes up his post and is confronted with a series of pressing high profile issues in Parliament and on the global stage, it is critical that he does not lose sight of the key challenges that will be impacting the university-business collaboration agenda in the coming months.
Some of these are intrinsically entwined with Brexit uncertainty while others are uniquely relevant to our space. But all require the urgent attention of Government and concerted efforts to deliver an ecosystem that supports, facilitates and grows collaborative agendas across innovation and graduate talent.
Here we break down our top five asks of the new PM and his incoming Government:
- Preserve the integrity of the Industrial Strategy.
The Industrial Strategy represents a signal overarching commitment to integrated growth policy. Its foundational pillars present an opportunity to keep the UK at the leading edge of scientific development and innovation. We cannot lose sight of the importance of a guiding strategy document to give universities and business the certainty they need that government has a clear sight of vision of our economic future. Equally, we must recognise that the prescriptions of the Strategy are not set in stone – and that opportunities to increase its scope or refine its focus may present themselves in future.
- Increase levels of R&D and commercialisation.
It is clear that the global economy values the ideas and innovative capability of the UK. We must maintain our focus on increasing investment in these valuable components of our innovation ecosystem. Creating the policy environment for both public and private investment in R&D to increase should be a key ambition of any Government which is serious about maintaining and developing our status as a knowledge economy in a competitive world.
- Maintain a productive relationship with Europe and its funding programmes.
Whilst we are open to the possibilities of a truly global UK, we must not lose sight of the immense value that we derive from collaboration with our European colleagues. This collaboration takes many forms, but our members are on record as placing great value on their relationships with European partners. Underpinning these collaborations, in many cases, are European funding streams and it is clear that we must maintain a productive association to such streams lest opportunities be lost. At the same time, we look forward to the emerging recommendations of the Smith Review of Frameworks for International Collaboration, and encourage the new Prime Minister to prioritise the UK’s continued success as a global leader in science, research and innovation.
- Protect the free flow of talent.
Achieving all of the above will require protecting the UK’s status as an attractive country for individuals to study and work. The newly proposed single-route, skills-based system risks alienating the impressive talent which makes up 15% of skilled people within our Higher Education Institutions. More widely, the additional red-tape and bureaucracy may prove weightier that the UK’s reputation as a world-leading and attractive country for residence, especially in competition to other countries in the EU. There must be a recognition of the need for flexibility in skill-dependent sectors which works in partnership with the Industrial Strategy.
- Strengthen pathways and pipelines.
It is encouraging that the outgoing government has demonstrated an awareness of and commitment to broadening the range of educational options and increasing their quality. From new Level 3 qualifications in T-Levels to a review of Levels 4 and 5, to the creation of degree apprenticeships and the ecosystems to support them. It is vital that these efforts are not undone in the coming months and years, and that further effort is made to safeguard the quality of teaching and learning across all pathways and at each level up to and including higher education.
It has been immensely valuable to have a Science minister in post who has been such an enthusiastic advocate for the importance university business interaction. As Ministerial appointments fall into place in the coming days we would be eager to see this level of advocacy and engagement maintained.
In an environment of such disruptive change, our network is committed to working collaboratively with others and maximising the opportunities that this provides. They and we recognise that a collective approach brings strengths and expertise from outside any one organisation, inside, realising true value and benefit. We hope that the new Prime Minister shares these values and joins us in recognising that we are stronger, together.