Universities need to be ‘ambitious’ to fix the UK’s innovation system

Campuses are one of the ‘strongest bits of the innovation system’ and will be crucial to its ‘rebuild’, conference hears

October 20, 2015
Source: iStock

The UK’s innovation system is a “little bit broken” and universities will play a crucial role in fixing it.

This is the view of Richard Jones, pro-vice chancellor for research and innovation at the University of Sheffield, who posed the question in his keynote speech to the Association for University Research and Industry Links’ annual conference earlier this month.

Professor Jones said that the country was in the middle of an “unprecedented slowdown in productivity growth” that has “stopped dead” since 2008.

“Poor productivity growth is a cross-sector problem of what economists call ‘total factor productivity,’” he said. “In the broadest sense this means innovation.”

He said that it was up to universities, as one of the “strongest bits of the innovation system”, to do their best to held “rebuild this”.

“We ought to be proud of our university system, and there is an appreciation [in government] of what we’ve done to maintain this internationally competitive research system we have,” he said.

“[However], we shouldn’t be asking what the government can do for us, we should be saying, aggressively, what can we do for government to contribute to national priorities and in particular restoring productivity growth?”

He also said that universities have to be quite “ambitious” to help fix the issues that society was facing and some would need to change the mentality of their core mission.

“If you haven’t engaged deeply with your local enterprise partnership or combined authority by now, you need to get on that really fast,” he said. “I think universities do have to help rebuild the innovation system, particularly those of us who live in those places where the economic needs are very obvious.

“Frankly this is going to take many universities away from what they think of as their traditional missions and is not going to be totally straightforward.”

john.elmes@tesglobal.com

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 3 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

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford will host a homeopathy conference next month

Charity says Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford is ‘naive’ to hire out its premises for event

women leapfrog. Vintage

Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O’Gorman offer advice on climbing the career ladder

Woman pulling blind down over an eye
Liz Morrish reflects on why she chose to tackle the failings of the neoliberal academy from the outside
White cliffs of Dover

From Australia to Singapore, David Matthews and John Elmes weigh the pros and cons of likely destinations

Michael Parkin illustration (9 March 2017)

Cramming study into the shortest possible time will impoverish the student experience and drive an even greater wedge between research-enabled permanent staff and the growing underclass of flexible teaching staff, says Tom Cutterham