Allies to focus on industry

June 22, 2001

Canada and the United Kingdom have formed a partnership to encourage bilateral contacts.

Its origins lie in a joint declaration signed in 1997 by prime ministers Tony Blair and Jean Chrétien that called for stronger academic ties between universities and industry in Canada and the UK.

No money was committed but the initiative produced a conference, Partnership for Knowledge (P4K), that brought more than 100 academics and industry representatives to Britain in 1999.

In October, P4K's second forum will take place in Edmonton, Alberta, where about 200 delegates are expected to pick up where the 1999 forum left off to try to establish joint projects funded by the universities.

According to forum co-chair Paul Davenport, the president of the University of Western Ontario, both countries have experienced injections of research funding.

UK co-chair Michael Gibbons, secretary-general of the Association of Commonwealth Universities, saw potential in infrastructure projects, such as computer interface programs for migration studies or the joint purchase of a ship for ocean exploration.

Conference organisers said that despite historical ties and much cross-migration between Canada and the UK, both countries had been more interested in their immediate continental neighbours, as well as both with Asia.

Dr Davenport said links could be developed without detracting from partnerships with other countries.

He said the first meeting brought out two themes. The first centred on the need for increased research links between academics that include industry, and the second was a call for more study-abroad programmes. At Western Ontario, there has been much demand from students for UK work-study placements.

Work placement has traditionally been a local endeavour. Professor Gibbons suggested that having an international programme that corresponded closely with the host country's business connections could add a certain lustre to the average university.

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