Growing appetite for university-industry collaborations

REF and ‘impact agenda’ makes sector look at collaborations with extra interest, scholars say

March 20, 2014

Source: Alamy

Take note: REF provides more incentive for academic/industry collaboration

Universities are now “hungrier” to work with industry than they have been in the past, according to a man who builds links between academia and industry for a major pharmaceutical company.

Malcolm Skingle, director of academic liaison at GlaxoSmithKline, said that the change has been helped along by the research excellence framework’s impact agenda.

Academics are now incentivised to engage with industry, he added.

For the REF 2014, demonstrating the impact of research is worth 20 per cent of an institution’s final score. Moreover, there is talk that this figure will be increased to 25 per cent for the next exercise, likely to be in 2020.

“If [researchers] take public purse money they should at least think about the potential outcome and what could be exploited,” said Dr Skingle, although he added that it was “fine” if the end result of research had no clear commercial use.

He said that in the past, academics may not have taken as much notice of industry.

“But those days are changing, because they are realising that if they do not start working with industry they are missing out,” Dr Skingle said.

Industry had much to offer academics, he observed, including “a different way of thinking about things” and access to new biological and chemical reagents developed by pharmaceutical companies.

Jon Hunt, deputy director of the Research Development and Support Office at the University of Bath, agreed that universities are now keener to work with industry, but stressed that it was not a new agenda. He added that these links would become more important in the future.

“The messages coming out of all the funding bodies are taking us into a more collaborative space,” he said.

He added that the focus on impact from the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the national research councils and the Technology Strategy Board had served to change the way that academics are able to articulate the importance of their research.

“That has translated into much better dialogue with industry,” added Dr Hunt.

“It has had a significant [effect] not just on how you address impact, but also being able to justify why businesses should work with us and apply for funding through [the European Union’s programme] Horizon 2020, for example.”

For Taraneh Dean, director of research at the University of Portsmouth, working with industry has always been “integral” to the institution’s activities.

“However, I do think the REF has made us think differently about such work,” she said.

Professor Dean added that the impact agenda, not necessarily just the REF, has brought a “significant shift” from academics being seen as a “provider of knowledge for industry” towards “a situation where both parties engage in the co-creation of knowledge and the generation of collective impact from it”.

But she warned that the REF’s requirement for universities to provide retrospective evidence of impact from “often reluctant” industrial partners has “introduced an element of awkwardness in the academic-industry relationship”.

She expected that future collaborations with industry will have the requirement to record and provide evidence of impact built into the design and conduct of any research.

“So this awkwardness should diminish,” Professor Dean said.

holly.else@tsleducation.com

Times Higher Education free 30-day trial

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Reader's comments (2)

Working with industry need not interfere with pure research, but work alongside it. The thing that is still missing is an effective way of identifying which research could be of true economic or social value, then turning it into products and services. At present too amny researchers are allowed to ignore the usefulness of their work and just blunder on regardless.
Working with industry require not meddle with unadulterated examination, yet work close by it. The thing that is as of now missing is a successful method for distinguishing which research could be of accurate financial or social quality, then transforming it into items and administrations. From one of the report shared by http://www.victorvillehighschool.com/, at present an excess of analysts are permitted to disregard the convenience of their work and only bumble on in any case.

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

question marks PhD study

Selecting the right doctorate is crucial for success. Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O'Gorman share top 10 tips on how to pick a PhD

Pencil lying on open diary

Requesting a log of daily activity means that trust between the institution and the scholar has broken down, says Toby Miller

India, UK, flag

Sir Keith Burnett reflects on what he learned about international students while in India with the UK prime minister

Application for graduate job
Universities producing the most employable graduates have been ranked by companies around the world in the Global University Employability Ranking 2016
Construction workers erecting barriers

Directly linking non-EU recruitment to award levels in teaching assessment has also been under consideration, sources suggest