The challenges facing the world are complex, and solutions are urgently required. Ill health, poverty, climate change, energy and water supply, food security, industrial development, conflict, migration and terrorism: the 21st century’s problems are threatening to us all.
But as well as threats, there are opportunities to deliver solutions, and it is clear that technology universities – those that concentrate on professional and vocational teaching and applied research – must play a leading role in solving global challenges.
This is why I have invited major research-intensive technology universities to the first World Technology Universities Congress, to be held at the University of Bradford on 8 and 9 September.
Technology universities are playing a critical role as creators of wealth and as motors for economic and social change. At Bradford, we have developed drugs to treat and prevent cancer and have promoted chemical and biochemical disarmament, and our engineering and healthcare products have saved lives and generated wealth worldwide. Other technology universities are engaged in similar work. Imagine the power of these universities collaborating and deploying their resources, knowledge, teaching and research expertise.
The congress will bring together senior members of international technology universities, business leaders and representatives of governmental and non-governmental organisations. We will be discussing whether, and how, to set up a continuing World Technology Universities Network, and we will be sharing best practice about collaborative research tackling 21st-century problems, how to teach the next generation of world leaders who will have to solve these problems, and how to work most effectively with business and other societal organisations.
What might such a network mean in practice? We will deliver: shared ideas on the application of emerging technologies; student exchanges with all the knowledge and cultural benefits they bring; pump-priming of collaborative research projects; opportunities for capacity-building with developing countries; joint teaching and research programmes; and identifying and accessing technological capacity and funding streams that are not open to us now. Our fierce collective focus on application and impact will deliver substantial benefit across the board.
By harnessing the combined strength of a network of technology universities, we will create a global alliance of the brightest and best, dedicated to making knowledge work for the benefit of society.
It will, of course, take time. But the congress will mark a significant moment in the development of how technology universities see their place in the world and will open up a future of great opportunity.
Vice-chancellor, University of Bradford