Uni debate focuses on business potential

October 29, 1999

Heriot-Watt and Glasgow universities are hosting an "Open Space" debate this week in an attempt to discover what barriers still exist between higher education and industry.

Kevin Cullen, operations manager of research and enterprise at Glasgow University, said institutions had won significant support to boost commercialisation through initiatives such as University Challenge and the Science Enterprise Challenge.

But he said: "We want to make sure that, as we get these resources, we know what we need to be spending them on. We have to understand the question before we start spending millions of pounds producing the answer."

It has often been said that academics only want to publish, that they do not understand the commercial world and that they react too slowly, Dr Cullen said.

"I want to test that assumption and challenge it," he said.

Dr Cullen suspects that the problems differ from the common perceptions. In information technology and computer science, for example, publishing research and the speed of development was not an issue, he said. Many researchers were writing codes that were effectively a product, rather than publishing findings.

Dr Cullen emphasised that the Open Space organisers had not fixed an agenda.

"We want to understand how the university/enterprise interface is viewed by all the players. The ethos is to leave the agenda and solutions to be created within the open space."

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Recent controversy over the future directions of both Stanford and Melbourne university presses have raised questions about the role of in-house publishing arms in a world of commercialisation, impact agendas, alternative facts – and ever-diminishing monograph sales. Anna McKie reports

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