The Nirah Project and various universities' contributions to the British Olympic swimming team demonstrate how far higher education has travelled from the old ivory tower stereotype. But every public service needs popular support, and enterprise of this sort is far removed from the image of unscrupulous companies manipulating research and diverting staff from universities' primary purposes. If successful, the new national institute will help fund valuable research as well as acting as a showcase to attract more young people into science.
Activities of this sort say at least as much about the modernisation of universities as the number of thriving spin-out companies they spawn. Higher education should do what it can to assist budding entrepreneurs, and the Chancellor's new national agency should help maximise their chances of success. But universities and colleges should not be judged on how many spin-outs survive the cull that faces even some of the best-prepared business plans.