The drive for university-business collaboration – of all shapes and sizes – has never been stronger as we look towards the next budget and the 2027 R&D target. While there is still Brexit uncertainty, we have a strong Government which is putting research and innovation at the heart of its policy programme.
We know the UK has been punching above its weight and now ranks 5th in the Global Innovation rankings. The proportion of R&D funding contributed by industry in the UK is 15% higher than in the US. Over £40bn has been invested in UK universities over the past ten years by businesses and other organisations to find solutions to their business problems. Last year there were over 350,000 contracts between universities and businesses. And the spin-out race between the UK and US is neck and neck with UK investments in spin-outs beginning to edge ahead.
Earlier this month, the PraxisAuril Board gathered for its annual Strategy Awayday to reflect on our progress and shape the future. We were delighted to welcome the CBI, InnovateUK, NCUB, UUK, the British Business Bank, ARMA and Research England around our table to share their views of the opportunities, challenges and the big issues in knowledge exchange. Graeme Reid – wearing multiple hats, as is customary – also gave us food for thought.
One of the great challenges about KE is that it encompasses so many types of activity. PraxisAuril wants to ensure that it offers something for all its members. But we also want to have a well defined ‘voice’ that articulates the value of our training, advocacy, and networking activities as part of the UK’s world-leading knowledge exchange community.
It was clear that we have a major opportunity to think about how our world-leading expertise in effective knowledge exchange could be a real asset to UK plc in its attempts to attract inward investment and to build integrated innovation ecosystems. PraxisAuril can help by ‘flaunting’ the role of KE in the innovation economy and building up our international profile as a successful exporter of expertise through our training around the World.
We also agreed to build on our successful training programmes (more than 5600 people trained so far) by developing even bigger banks of useful ‘how-to’ stories and case studies of success.
Joining us this year were two new appointments to the PraxisAuril Board: Amanda Selvaratnam, Head of Enterprise Services at the University of York who led our conference committee in 2019 and won the member-elected seat in a hard-fought election; and Andy Walsh, Director of Academic Liaison at GSK, who has been appointed to ensure a business ‘user’ view. Iain Thomas, Head of Life Sciences at Cambridge Enterprise took up his seat as Chair-elect – his tenure will start in January 2021.
So, it is time to be visionary and bold in our ‘ask’ for the role of KE in delivering the UK’s vision for a productive economy and global reach: time to take a leaf from our American cousins who confidently celebrate the achievements of the sector in their annual licensing survey; time to promote the contribution of all of PraxisAuril’s members up and down the UK; and time to assert the role of world-class development across a global professional network that has the potential to drive UK research and innovation to new levels.
Sean Fielding RTTP
Chair, PraxisAuril 2019-21
Director, Innovation, Impact and Business
University of Exeter