Task forces to probe academy-industry relations

CIHE launches groups as part of revamped remit. Hannah Fearn reports

The Council for Industry and Higher Education has launched the first of a series of task forces set up to examine the relationship between business and universities in different industries.

The move, part of chief executive David Docherty’s plan to overhaul the remit of the CIHE, will produce a series of reports that are expected to inform the council’s policy in the coming years.

The first two task forces will focus on the digital and creative industries, and engineering and manufacturing. They will begin their work in the new year, when additional groups will be announced, and report back to the CIHE in early 2011.

The engineering and manufacturing task force, to which 15 people are expected to be appointed, will be co-chaired by Richard Greenhalgh, former chair of Unilever UK and chair of the CIHE, and Nigel Thrift, vice-chancellor of the University of Warwick.

Mr Greenhalgh said the task force would discuss how to address the shortage of graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), and ask why so many graduates choose non-STEM careers.

“The thing we have got to look at is what will manufacturing and engineering look like in ten or 15 years’ time?” he said.

The digital and creative industries task force will be co-chaired by Rona Fairhead, chief executive of the Financial Times Group, and Christopher Snowden, vice-chancellor of the University of Surrey. It will have ten members.

Professor Snowden said emerging industries such as digital content for mobile phones and games would require graduates to possess new skills. The sector is also large and under-resourced, he added; in the North East and North West of England, there are 500,000 people employed in digital and creative roles by 50,000 businesses.

Dr Docherty said the task forces would “ensure that business and university research collaborations more clearly focus on the UK’s need for global competitiveness and social wellbeing”.


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