University-Industry Collaboration Essential For Innovation, N8 Chair Says


Sir Alan Langlands, Chair of the N8 Board of Directors and Vice Chancellor at the University of Leeds, has emphasised the importance of collaboration between academics and industry.

In a keynote address yesterday (25 June) at the ‘Global Universities of the 21st Century’ event in Liverpool, Sir Alan discussed how universities are actively shaping the innovation landscape through collaborating with industry.

In his speech, Sir Alan discussed the contribution that universities make to the UK economy, and highlighted ways in which the N8 Research Partnership has opened up an array of new partnership opportunities to the business community.

Sir Alan drew attention to the N8 Industry Innovation Forum (N8 IIF) as a prime example of how the N8 Research Partnership is connecting industry and academics. Set up in response to industry feedback, the N8 IIF enables industry to effectively have a single conversation with eight universities in specific challenge areas such as advanced materials, industrial biotechnology, healthy and active ageing and food security/agri-tech.

Sir Alan said:
“There is widespread agreement that strong links between industry and academics are vital for creating and sustaining economic growth. Bringing together the best with the best and starting new conversations creates the right environment for innovation and game-changing ideas. From working with multi-nationals to supporting spin outs and start ups, the most successful collaborations are those where all partners can work together without pre-conceived ideas to develop novel approaches based on their complementary skills and expertise.

“Our universities are playing a major role in creating competitive advantage through such collaboration, co-operation, and co-creation, and the N8 has led the way in this by offering a single entry point for industrial partners looking to leverage the power of eight world-class universities.”

Since it was launched in 2012, the N8 IIF has played a role in the creation of almost 30 new innovative research partnerships. Its success to date includes seven brand new industry-led projects with a combined value of £7.25million, involving academics, multinational companies and SMEs, and a host of other partners including the NHS and charities.

Sir Alan continued:
“The N8 IIF has been very positively received by industry and academics alike, and is an excellent example of the way in which universities and businesses are working together to develop knowledge, increase the impact of research and pave the way for new products and new technologies that not only help to meet the challenges society faces but can also contribute to economic growth across northern England.”

The role of universities in driving economic growth was highlighted in the latest figures published by HEFCE. The Higher Education – Business and Community Interaction (HE-BCI) survey, released earlier this month, reveals that the total value of interactions between universities and business has grown from £3.4 billion in 2011-12 to £3.6 billion in 2012-13 – an increase of five per cent. In addition, the value of collaborative research has grown by over nine per cent.

Earlier this week, the Chancellor, George Osborne, highlighted the role of universities in helping to create a ‘northern powerhouse’ built around closer links between cities in the North of England and strong ties between universities and industry. In particular, he praised the universities of Durham, Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield and York, and others, for the ground-breaking innovation being carried out and for leading the way in cooperation between academics and industry.

The two day Global Universities of the 21st Century event is taking place as part of the International Festival of Business, happening throughout June and July at locations across Liverpool.