Sir Andrew Witty is to come up with a plan on how British universities might go about engaging more with local businesses in an attempt to help bolster the economy of university towns.
The chief executive of GlaxoSmithKline and chancellor of Nottingham University, has been asked by the coalition to lead a review into how the government might go about using Britain’s university research base to help bolster growth and will offer practical steps on how Local Enterprise Partnerships, the new local business bodies, can engage properly with academic institutions.
David Willetts, the universities and science minister said linking academia into the commercial world was “critical to the government’s industrial strategy”. Mr Witty will report back later in the year.
The coalition has identified 11 sectors that it wants to target as part of an industrial strategy to move Britain away from being overly dependent on financial services. It also has eight technologies that it wants to invest in, including robotics and energy storage.
Mr Willetts has already had some success in this area, having secured £300m of funding from the Treasury for the government’s Research Partnership Investment Fund.
The programme to promote research collaboration with industry on key projects had originally been awarded £100m of funding, but got bumped up after intense interest from industry. The programme is now set to generate close to £1bn of research activity in the UK after industrial partners invested two-thirds of funding into the project.
Universities which have benefited include Birmingham, which has teamed up on a new research centre with Rolls-Royce, the aero engine and power systems manufacturer, and Warwick University, which has gone into partnership with Jaguar Land Rover and the Tata Motors European Technical Centre to create a National Automotive Innovation Campus to work on low emissions vehicle technology.
Source: FT.com, Elizabeth Rigby