Brussels, 08 Dec 2003
The key to increasing private research investment is strengthening the demand for research from business, rather than increasing the supply of ideas and services from universities, a UK report has concluded.
The Lambert Review was commissioned by the UK government with the aim of stimulating a debate on closer collaboration between business and universities.
Report writer Richard Lambert's recommendations include a new funding stream for business relevant research, more responsibility and flexibility for universities, the simplification of the process to protect intellectual property, encouraging new types of formal and informal networks between business people and academics, and working together to increase the employability of graduates.
'I am very positive about the economic potential which business in the UK can harness through developing stronger collaboration with universities. I am also clear that realising this potential will require concerted action by universities and business, with support from government,' said Richard Lambert, presenting his report on 4 December.
The advice was welcomed by UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, who responded by saying that 'a centrepiece of our next budget and spending review will be government playing its part in helping universities and business face up to [...] new challenges - together we must enable our centres of excellence to succeed in the next wave of science.'
The demand side problem is fairly unique to the UK, according to the report. Compared with other countries, UK business is not research intensive, and research investment has been fairly low in recent years. 'UK business research is concentrated in a narrow range of industrial sectors, and in a small number of large companies. All this helps to explain the productivity gap between the UK and other comparable economies,' claims the report.
One of the reasons for the review was to ensure that the UK is able to capitalise on two new trends, each involving increased cooperation. Companies are currently moving away from a system in which most of their research is done in their own laboratories, hidden away from competitors, to one in which they actively seek collaboration. Research is also going global. Multinationals are choosing to locate their research centres in their most important markets, which are not necessarily located in their home country.
'These trends have big implications for universities, which are potentially very attractive partners for business,' states the report. 'Good academic researchers operate in international networks: they know what cutting-edge work is going on in their field around the world.' Universities also have the advantage, compared to corporate and government research facilities, that they are 'constantly being refreshed by the arrival of clever new brains.'
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