Aligning industrial strategy with local strengths

Brunel University London: Eastern Gateway building evening

In his preliminary findings for the “Independent Review of Universities and Growth” in July, Sir Andrew Witty identified the themes that he would develop in his full report due out next week.

One of the themes that emerged in the preliminary report that I would like to see expanded, was the statement “Sectoral strengths and clusters are a sound starting point for creating regional growth, and this implies collaboration between LEPS and Universities across the country…”

In combination with the observation that “Universities can play a stronger role in realising the economic benefits of research insights for localities and local economies” and an awareness of the ‘smart specialisation’ methodology, there is huge potential for Universities to play a stronger role in realising the benefits of their specialist research for their localities whilst also ensuring that regions don’t become too inward looking or parochial. There will hopefully emerge an appreciation that Universities can provide the vision to facilitate the alignment of the UK Industrial Strategy with local strengths thereby preventing potential disconnect between the local and national strategy and driving further towards a combined international strategy.

Brunel is a clear example of a University that has aligned its strengths with those of West London, enabling regional development and moving away from segmenting activities.

This is perhaps best exemplified by the recent launch of the RCUK National Centre for Sustainable Energy Use in Food Chains. With 10% of all jobs in London linked to the food and drink sector, it is the second largest and best performing manufacturing sector in London over the past 5 years. Within the West London sub-region, there are 14,500 people employed in the food and drink sector, with over 140 food businesses on the Park Royal Industrial Estate alone.

Located on Brunel’s west London campus and undoubtedly capitalising on local strengths, the RCUK Centre is a nation-wide collaboration between 3 Universities across 3 geographically distant cities (London, Birmingham and Manchester) and involving a total of 33 industrial partners. The Centre will deliver research and development programmes and will provide a platform for creating new and exciting undergraduate and postgraduate programmes and will act as a regional and national catalyst for innovation and economic development.

The data provided in the 150 responses to the Call for Evidence and the discussions occurring within the 6 nationwide stakeholder fora that Sir Andrew will outline in his full report should be very informative providing a broad spectrum of insights as to the roles and responsibilities of Universities in not only supporting, but driving growth in the years ahead.

This blog was written by Nicola Rogers, Teresa Waller and Julia Buckingham who is the Vice-Chancellor at Brunel University.

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