Narrow focus key to London innovation

June 13, 2003

London needs to concentrate on just three of its 40 higher education institutions to turn around its poor innovation record, according to Sir Derek Roberts, provost and president of University College London.

The chair of the London Innovation Steering Group said getting industry to work with Imperial College London, King's College London and UCL would provide 90 per cent of the research activity London needs.

Sir Derek's comments follow the launch of the London Development Agency Innovation Strategy and Action Plan, designed to turn the capital into the world's leading knowledge economy. The business-dominated steering group is overseeing implementation of the plan.

He said: "It would be more sensible to focus on that target and hitting it, rather than making plans for all 40 universities. Why would industry want to join up with non-research-intensive institutions? They need to work with internationally competitive universities."

London-based businesses invest below the national average in research and development and file half the average number of patents. There is a low participation rate in teaching company schemes that use graduate placements.

Citing the London Technology Network, a brokering service to enable companies to access expertise at UCL, the London Business School, Imperial and King's, Sir Derek said the universities were already active in improving their end of the links. He added: "The challenge is to stimulate industry to be more responsive."

The action plan covers a range of measures affecting higher education in the capital. They include promoting collaboration between institutions; creating up to 25 per cent more incubation space; ensuring spin-off companies have early stage funding and support; and setting up a graduate and undergraduate placement programme to promote knowledge and technology transfer between universities and small and medium-sized companies.

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