Universities have much more to give

As a Nation we should be extremely proud of the contribution our Universities have made to the progression of science and knowledge and our educational prowess is both respected and recognised throughout the world. Whist this maybe the case, there is no avoiding the need to cut costs, a fate that other public and private sector organisations have failed to escape. Plugging the budget shortfall and creating financial game plans to secure long-term sustainable futures have become of paramount importance to senior university managers

The one advantage which universities have that others don’t is the rich seam of potentially commercial propositions these span the spectrum of patents and licensing, through to revenue streams created through consultancy, R & D collaboration and spinouts. However commecialisation still remains a relatively low priority for university faculties. At the extreme some senior academics frown upon entrepreneurial forays with many sensible suggestions dismissed at infancy. A mindset change is needed and when costs are being cut plausible options of how to secure revenue from the commercial realisation should be investigated. For many academics seeing the application of their research in practice is a significant motivator, more needs to be done.

The Government has made it clear that transforming research into innovation is a priority and whilst UK universities have a strong record more needs to be done. This involves building stronger links between the UK’s science and research base and the business community, to create more spin-out companies, consultancy projects and research-funded programme

For this to happen a fundamental change is needed in promoting an entrepreneurial culture. In all fairness academics are not trained or prepared for the life of commerce. Very few have the unique mix of business and technical skills. Setting up a venture or selling knowledge and expertise is far more than creating a business plan – it requires attention to a broader set of softer skill which cant be taught, however they can be coached. Is it time for change?

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2 Responses to Universities have much more to give

  1. Tony Urwin says:

    An excellent point John. However, it probably needs a structural change in the universities to achieve this. Where does the intellectual property lie with inventions developed through universities. Most private companies have a very clear regime in which inventions developed during the time the individual is working in the company belongs to the company. I suspect that in universities, the situation is far less clear.
    Equally, they need to up their game as businesses. A friend of mine is a Professor in an engineering discipline in a NW university. He is also a visiting Professor at a university in one of the BRIC countries. Guess what, he gets paid by his main job whilst also being paid in his part-time role. Nice work if you can get it. Fifteen months pay each year.

    Our universities claim to be excellent at research. Isn’t it about time that they started to exploit their inventions for the benefit of the university and not for the academics who don’t operate within the real world economy? You never know, with a strong income stream from their research, as well as real world HR policies, they could even manage to reduce the fees they are charging our brightest youngsters.

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