We are delighted to announce the launch of NCUB Wales.

As governments struggle to create jobs, growth and prosperity, few have lost sight of the need to invest deeply and for the long-term in two precious assets – young, intellectually-able talent, and the capacity of businesses to innovate. Maximising these investments requires a long-term strategic alignment of universities, businesses, financial markets and government.

Two months ago, following the Wilson Review of business-university relations, the independent National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB) was launched as UK-wide organisation dedicated to fostering world-class collaborations between all of the main players in the modern knowledge-based economy. The NCUB is supported by major corporates, universities across the four home countries, the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills in London, and Technology Strategy Board. And today we are delighted to unveil NCUB Wales, supported by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales.

Innovation clusters with higher education at their heart

The modern wealth of nations flows from commercialising and implementing the products of its intellectual capital, whether those are the deepest and most profound long-term scientific endeavours that might take twenty years to come to fruition (if ever), or close-to-market services that have an immediate economic impact. And the only people who can make this happen are highly-inventive people, many of whom flow out every year from our universities, or who remain there as lecturers and researchers pushing into new territories and creating new insights into old problems. As Gordon Moore, the founder of semi-conductor giant, Intel, said: As Gordon Moore, the founder of Intel said of one of the world’s greatest innovation clusters: “The most important contribution Stanford makes to Silicon Valley is to replenish the intellectual pool every year with new graduate students.”

Adam Smith, the founder of modern economics, wrote of the ‘universal opulence’ that flowed from countries that harnessed the powers of production in his era. And Wales, of course, grew strong in that first age of industrialism. How the country harnesses its intellectual capacity will underpin its ‘opulence’ in the New Industrial Revolution driven by massive global forces.

In this new age, we need solutions to the multiple, interlocking and complex needs of low carbon technologies. We need our higher education system to be set up to engage with companies who know that modern manufacturing is as much driven by software and services as it used to be by power and people. Most high end companies now make as much if not more money from serving a machine as from making it.  

The Internet is smashing together industries such as design, media and healthcare to create entirely new sectors that we can still only see glimpses of and which need universities to help research, understand and help companies develop products and services for. And all of this is being fed by open-source collaborations and innovation clusters with higher education at their heart.

Celebrating Welsh success and supporting innovation

This week’s report on the health of the relationship between businesses and universities is extremely heartening. Welsh universities have had almost a £3.6 billion impact on the economy, and leaders have announced that they will be forging a stronger partnership into the future to exploit further the economic potential of collaboration between business and the higher education sector. We are delighted therefore that, Professor Colin Riordan, Vice Chancellor of the University of Cardiff, and Simon Bradley, VP of Global Innovation Networks at aerospace giant, EADS, will co-chair the new Leadership Council for NCUB Wales. This represents at a very human level, the institutional cooperation that will be at heart of success.

But what will NCUB Wales actually do? It will celebrate success in Wales and promote it to the rest of the UK and beyond. The Centre will offer practical advice, particularly to small companies who need it most. It will broker and facilitate high-quality work experience for students in higher education, which will have the benefit of increased fresh thinking in Welsh companies. It will help turn Welsh inventiveness into Welsh innovation.

As Education and Skills Minister, Leighton Andrews, notes: “The creation of the National Centre for Universities and Business Wales marks a significant step forward in building long and lasting relationships between industry and our universities and that’s to be celebrated.”

Picture credit: Wales.com