Alexander's key to success

November 30, 2001

Wendy Alexander, Scotland's enterprise and lifelong learning minister, has emphasised that the country's economic success depends on close links between industry and tertiary education.

Her address to a knowledge transfer conference in Glasgow this week followed rumours of a turf war with Scotland's new first minister, Jack McConnell. He was said to want to sever the link between enterprise and lifelong learning and to merge tertiary education with the schools portfolio. He has confirmed, however, that Ms Alexander will continue her current responsibilities, with the addition of transport.

At the conference, hosted by the Scottish Executive, the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council and Scottish Enterprise, Ms Alexander strongly defended bringing business and universities closer to try to boost growth. She said she had jettisoned her original "worthy" topic of commercialisation schemes because she wanted to talk about "policy and first principles", which had Mr McConnell's full support.

When the Scottish Parliament was set up, enterprise, lifelong learning and science had been joined in one department to break down barriers. She said:

"This is not some territorial defence of the status quo, but a stake in the ground for Scottish success."

Scotland ranked third in the world in research papers per head of population, and public support for science was above United Kingdom and United States averages. "Our problem is that Scottish business fails to invest in research and development," Ms Alexander said. "Pumping resources separately into universities and businesses will not result in a spontaneous change in the rate of commercialisation. We need to develop better linkages between the two sectors. If we get that right as a nation, the pay-off will be disproportionately large."

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