Minds for markets will gain rewards

November 30, 2001

Glasgow Caledonian University is encouraging all its staff to be more commercially minded by offering them a broad range of practical rewards and incentives.

GCU, a new university, lacks the lucrative research tradition of its older sisters. It hopes its new scheme will help boost its external income by spelling out how staff can share in the rewards.

An average Scottish university gets 56 per cent of its income from public funds, but at GCU it tops 70 per cent. Pro vice-chancellor Gordon Dickson said: "While raising money is important for everyone, arguably it is a wee bit more important for us than perhaps the old universities."

Professor Dickson acknowledged that staff were under great pressure, but said that far from adding to their burden, the scheme was intended to give them extra support for commercial possibilities.

The university has sent a leaflet to all staff outlining the options. One scheme is Caledonian's proof-of-concept fund, which plugs the funding gap for projects leading up to the prototype stage. Academics could make a pitch to a small committee and win funding to buy out their teaching responsibilities, for example, or employ a technician, Professor Dickson said.

This would help them compete in "big national arenas" such as the Scotland-wide proof-of-concept scheme run by Scottish Enterprise, he said.

Departments have been given targets for external funding. They may also keep 60 per cent of the income raised. But if they exceed the targets, they can keep 100 per cent of the first £25,000, and 80 per cent of any sum after that. If research is successfully commercialised, the first £3,000 of net earnings will go to the academic, and the next £100,000 will be split equally between the academic and the university.

Of the university's share, 70 per cent will go to the project's subject area, with 30 per cent joining a central university fund promoting research.

The fund will underpin a "public-private partnership" scheme that guarantees matching funds for cash raised externally. Staff will also win £500 for patents, and £150 for suggestions on raising or saving money that are implemented by the university.

Staff have the option of adding rewards to their salaries or opening a "development account", to which the university will add 20 per cent. "In practical terms, say you run an income-generating activity, such as a conference that generates a surplus, you could have paid yourself an honorarium, but you can now put the money into your account," Professor Dickson said.

"In times of strict financial stringency, you can then go to the conference you couldn't otherwise go to, or upgrade your computer or recruit research assistance."

The university is launching a series of workshops to encourage commercialisation. "This is a process rather than an event," Professor Dickson said.

"Our research portfolio is very applied. Not only do we research for the sake of advancing knowledge but for the purpose of informing our programmes, which are vocational. I think we maybe find it more straightforward to appeal to certain commercial bodies because we are supplying them with their skilled labour force and also able to help them with their applied research needs."

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