Chris Skidmore the HE Minister calls himself the minister of 2.4% - ie minister for raising R&D from 1.7% of GDP to 2.4% or from around £35BN to about £50BN. The biggest component of this is business R&D (at around £25BN). That implies a growth in business R&D of £10BN. That’s a huge task – unless somehow we can contrive to reduce our GDP through a slow motion cross-border crisis! But the fact that the HE Minister sees himself as responsible for this must put the UK Knowledge exchange community firmly in his sights as the people who can help make this possible. The announcement last week of an increase in HE-BCI collaboration between universities and business of about 6% to £4.5BN despite GDP growth slowing to almost nothing must have put a spring in his step. But there’s clearly much more to do.
Over the next few weeks, pencils are being sharpened to draw up the business cases for the next government funding review postponed to the Autumn. The battle lines are coming into focus as UKRI and businesses eye how to use the investment power of government to fuel the growth needed to meet 2.4%. What is clear is that with the potential for an increased R&D budget (and perhaps a reduced teaching budget) universities are being asked increasingly to demonstrate significant economic and social impact from the research and teaching investment they receive.
For the knowledge exchange professionals who are at the sharp end of this, building partnerships, generating new ventures, managing regional projects and creating significant leverage this looks like an important time. We are becoming some of the most essential people in our organisations because without us the economic and social benefit might slow to a trickle. But although I’d argue that we are the most important, we are probably the least well understood.
Now is the time for us to make the case for the essential work that we do. New collaborations and new ventures don’t just happen because of the great ideas of our academics but because of a creative blend of teamwork, expertise and experience which, when it works well, is the best in the World. We must all strive to be the best we can and I’m delighted to see that a further 6 members of the UK community, from the Universities of Kent, Lancaster, Glasgow Caledonian, Oxford, Swansea and Sheffield have achieved the rigorous RTTP standard with 3 enrolled as Candidate RTTP from Heriot-Watt and my own University, Exeter. Congratulations to them all. Many people have also signed up to the PraxisAuril mentoring scheme which seems to be going really well. And there have been record entries to the call for abstracts for our conference in June which aims to be the ‘go to place’ for people who want to know how to succeed at university business collaboration. I hope to see you all there.
Sean Fielding RTTP
Director of Innovation, Impact and Business
University of Exeter
Chair, PraxisAuril 2019-21