Universities can do more!

The amount of Government funding that has gone into funding research and development over the last number of years needs to pay for itself in the future – looking at the vast resource of talent and expertise that sits in our HE establishments leads me to believe that there must be potential to create new ventures that deliver new jobs and economic growth. Patents, brainpower and knowledge can be turned into revenue – we just need more “academic entrepreneurs” – those individuals that remain passionate about their subject area but see the commercial potential of their work. Such individuals could be vital contributors to the economy going forward – Manchester University has a number of them – we just need more!

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5 Responses to Universities can do more!

  1. David Batty says:

    Universities are not educational establishments, like they used to be in the old days. Nowadays universities are businesses pure and simple. In order to maximise the amount of money they collect they have students doing only 6 to 12 hours of contact time so they can fit four or five paying students in each seat. They set their own work, mark it themselves and then use internal audits to ensure they get a high pass rate and compete with each other to be top of the league tables.

    I think the country would do far better if it spent money on apprenticeships and also on grants/help for businesses to develop Intellectual Property they currently have but are not making the most of.

    A student can get far better education if they work in industry backed by academic learning rather than by doing all the theory without real world experience, deadlines, constraints and all the other stuff that is not taught from books.

    I have around 20,000 hours of teaching experience, some in Universities but most in Colleges and Schools.

    I feel we need to get rid of the blinkered school/college/Uni/Top Job mentality we see in our youngsters nowadays, and get back to basic on the job training.

  2. Hi John,
    I completely agree that there is a lot of untapped commercial potential in our universities. Government too are looking for the ‘payback’ now, having invested so much in the past decade or so into research capacity in universities.

    One of the systemic problems within universities (and I say this having led the IP/business development unit at Leicester uni in the past) is that as a business, they’re in a pretty bad position. They’re hugely reliant on just one, giant-sized, paying customer: government research councils that pay them to do ‘pure’ research (blue skies stuff – not applied research, or the ‘D’ part of R&D). This in turn determines the quality of facilities they can afford and the amount they are also paid by govt for teaching.

    The net result of all this is that your typical academic is always under extreme pressure from their faculty bosses to bring in more ‘pure research’ money. This leaves them with no time for developing the more commercial side of their research which might lead to a business venture.

    It’s a difficult situation, but of course some individuals do manage it – the ‘academic entrepreneurs’ you talk about. We’ve got to keep on encouraging them and making it as easy as possible for them to connect with the business world.

    • johnleachwp says:

      Hi Clare – I love your comments – “we’ve got to keep encouraging” them and “some of them have managed to do it. I am currently putting together a group of ambassadors for the message – one of which includes the inspirational story from Professor Paul O’Brien – one of the founders of Nanoco plc – if we could only get another 10 of these out of the Uni! Cheers John

  3. dan says:

    Clare is so right here – which is why we work with organisations like NCGE to help educate uni’s about becoming more entreprenuerial at events like IECC.

    The biggest problem is the uni culture which is so old fashioned that the big changes that are coming might be too quick for them.

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