Sarah Glendinning: University business partnerships can create a strong economy

'Increasing collaboration between businesses and universities remains a priority for CBI,' says Sarah Glendinning

Sarah Glendinning, assistant director, CBI North East
Sarah Glendinning, assistant director, CBI North East

Last week I was delighted to attend Northumbria University’s Business Partnership Dinner where CBI’s Director General, John Cridland, delivered the keynote speech emphasising how important university business partnerships are for a strong and dynamic economy.

Increasing collaboration between businesses and universities remains a priority for CBI.

In a world of intense competition, building and sustaining competitive advantage requires innovation and the people with the skills to support and deliver it.

The UK’s world-class universities are perfectly placed to help build and sustain this competitive advantage; supporting business research and innovation and delivering a highly skilled workforce.

They are a key strength, offering business a world-class resource which is increasingly valuable and in recent years universities have made huge strides in developing the ways in which they can support business innovation and the research which underpins it.

We are starting from a position of strength when it comes to university business collaboration.

The World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report ranks the UK 2nd in the world for quality of scientific research and 4th for university and industry collaboration and the North East has world class universities and world class businesses – of all sizes – with an appetite for partnership.

Collaboration can boost competitiveness and growth both for an individual firm and contribute to overall UK economic growth, and links with universities can give firms a competitive edge as well as helping win the “war for talent”.

A number of changes to the basis of funding for both researching and teaching are driving changes in culture and encouraging businesses and universities to work more closely together.

Universities play a vital part in the innovation ecosystem with partnerships coming in many forms, working for firms of any size.

The scale of engagement can range from fairly short term consultancy activities or loan of equipment through to knowledge transfer partnerships, to long term collaboration on substantial research programmes.

Also, a rising volume of university research is being commissioned directly by businesses as universities become a crucial part of their R&D supply chain.

All the North East universities are working in partnership with both local and global businesses, across all sectors.

Teesside University offer technical and executive masterclasses for the process and pharmaceutical sectors used by the likes of Sabic; Newcastle University’s Flying Start Degree Programme has been running since 2002 delivered in partnership by the university’s business school, PwC and ICAEW. Durham University have a “master collaboration agreement“ with P&G specifically tapping into Durham’s expertise in biology, astronomy, chemistry and physics and Sunderland University has close links with Sunderland Software City supporting the region’s growing tech businesses.

As the fantastic example last week between Northumbrian Water and Northumbria University showed, the North East is successfully embracing business and university collaboration already.

Here’s hoping Dwaine Pipe is only the start of a successful story.

Sarah Glendinning is assistant director at CBI North East

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