RAE looks to link business and academia

The UK’s national academy for engineering has announced an investigation into enabling the government to support the development of more effective collaborations between businesses and universities.

Dame Ann Dowling DBE FREng FRS, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAE), has been asked by the Minister for Universities, Science and Cities, Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, to lead a review examining how government can support the development of more fruitful relationships between UK businesses and UK university researchers.

Clark says of the collaboration: “Our Science and Innovation Strategy outlines our long-term plan to make the UK the best place in the world to do science and business. To achieve this we need science and business to work well together, to help our world-leading researchers identify the technologies needed by industry and provide solutions that will enable UK businesses maintain their competitive edge by bringing products to market more quickly.

“The results of the recent Research Excellence Framework demonstrate the growing strength of research in our higher education institutions, so it’s only right we use this knowledge to support business growth, particularly for smaller firms. I’m grateful to Professor Ann Dowling for agreeing to carry out this review on how Government can better support relationships between businesses and university researchers.”

The Dowling Review is part of the science and innovation strategy and was announced by Vince Cable here at the Academy in late December 2014. The RAE is looking to both the private and academic sector to come forward and share their experiences in managing collaborations and ventures with each other and suggestions for how government can help facilitate productive relationships.

The aim of the review is to help businesses and academia to better understand each other’s needs, interests and constraints and to develop trusting relationships which will allow them to share long-term strategic plans. The findings will advise government on the best course of action to foster these collaborations between industry and academia.

The review will consider the implications for the full spectrum of research disciplines and businesses of different sizes, types and sectors.

Dame Ann Dowling DBE FREng FRS, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering.
Dame Ann Dowling DBE FREng FRS, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Dame Ann Dowling said: “I am delighted the government is committed to improving the relationships between businesses and university research capabilities.

“University researchers can be inspired by developments that would make a long term difference to a particular sector, leading to challenging and innovative research. This can give industry the confidence to invest more in UK research and facilitate the flow of innovation between academic researchers and industry. Some companies already foster such long term strategic relationships with academia and derive substantial benefits from them.

“We want to understand the barriers for others and make concrete recommendations about how they can be overcome to deliver broad benefits to the UK in the long term.”

“We want to hear from individuals and organisations involved in business-academia collaborations and the successes and challenges they have faced in building productive ongoing relationships. But we also want to hear from those who did not succeed. To make a parallel with the world of research, a negative result is still a very valuable result and will be essential in generating a comprehensive body of evidence.”

The review will explore topics such as the key success factors for building long-term strategic research partnerships between business and academia, and will also consider possible incentives, schemes and rewards, and ways to engage SMEs.