The Council for Industry and Higher Education (CIHE) today  announced plans to launch a new National Centre for Universities and Business. The centre will focus on strengthening the strategic partnership between universities and business with a view to driving economic growth and recovery. The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) will initially fund the centre, with support from other national funding bodies.

The establishment of such a centre was a key recommendation in Sir Tim Wilson’s review of business-university collaboration, published in February 2012. Today’s announcement coincides with the Government’s response to the Review in which ministers are expected to support the launch of such a centre.

The development of the National Centre reflects the recognition by university and business leaders that they need to do more together to address the challenges to the UK of immediate turbulence in the global economy and of longer-term competitiveness.

A high-level steering group, chaired by Sir Richard Lambert (the former Director-General of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and author of the influential 2003 review of links between higher education (HE) and -business) and Professor Anton Muscatelli (the Principal of the University of Glasgow), will oversee development of a full business plan for the centre, with a view to getting a range of funders and sponsors on board to launch the centre fully in the Autumn.

The centre will publish an annual ‘State of the relationship report’ which is intended to become the premier influence on policy development in the area of HE-business links. It will also conduct enquiries into major matters of HE and business interest. This will include examining the impact of the new student funding and fees regime on graduate recruitment and the longer-term business workforce. The Centre will be on hand to offer services to HE and business, such as good practice developments and support in establishing international links.

Sir Richard Lambert, former Director-General, CBI said:

“The challenge to the UK of the rise of developing countries as knowledge economies is serious. In my 2003 review, I endorsed the vital importance of university-business partnerships. However, this is now combined with the more immediate need to get the UK into growth and recovery, and to make it competitive and resilient. Through the new centre, I want to commit businesses and universities to meeting these challenges – together – and to making Great Britain a great place for innovation.”

Professor Anton Muscatelli, Principal, University of Glasgow, said:

“The Lambert Review was a great spur to business-university partnerships and real progress has been made. However, we need to commit now to deepen that partnership and seize opportunities ahead. I am very pleased that leaders from universities and from business have agreed to put their time into getting this centre launched, as recommended by the Wilson Review. I look forward to working with partners, including all the various relevant funding bodies, universities and business, to establish this centre.’

Dr David Docherty, Chief Executive, CIHE, said:

“The CIHE is committed to develop the relationships between universities and business. That is why we leapt at the opportunity presented to us by the Wilson Review. The new National Centre will become a key force in strengthening business-university co-operation and ultimately driving the economic recovery.”

David Sweeney, Director for Research, Innovation and Skills, HEFCE, said:

“HEFCE is very pleased to fund the initial development of the National Centre for Universities and Business, and we look forward to working with other funders to support the full venture. This forms part of our long-term commitment to HE-business links, reflected particularly in the support we give for knowledge exchange through the Higher Education Innovation Fund. We look forward to new Centre providing further compelling evidence of why universities matter for the economic future of this country – and why they are a good investment towards growth, for the Government, as well as for business support.”