Warwick's industry turns profit from academic expertise

Tony Tysome and Harriet Swain go in search of the Midlands, a region that is busy bridging an east-west divide, increasing participation rates and developing links

The University of Warwick is probably the United Kingdom's most successful post-war university in terms of earning power, generating nearly Pounds 85 million last year alone, writes Harriet Swain.

Since it opened in 1965, it has developed a series of money-spinning schemes that now provide more than 60 per cent of the university's income.

The most successful scheme is Warwick Manufacturing Group, which in less than 20 years has grown from one man and a desk to 400 staff and a Pounds 50 million turnover. It has partnerships with more than 500 organisations from governments to multinational firms. Outside its Coventry base, it has operations in China, east Asia and South America.

The group was founded in 1980 by Kumar Bhattacharyya, who is responsible for much of its success. But nothing would have happened without the backing of the university, which, in return, gets most of the profits. The Higher Education Funding Council provides only 10 per cent of the group's turnover.

WMG aims to cover every element behind a successful firm, from training engineers and managers, through manufacturing methods to corporate strategy and government policy. Its ethos is to bring academic expertise to industry and industrial relevance - and cash - to the university.

In WMG's advanced technology centre in Coventry are scientists and people on secondment from industry testing equipment and experimenting with production techniques. This is complemented by the nearby international manufacturing centre.

More than 1,200 post-graduate and 150 doctoral students study with the group, which also trains about 5,000 industrialists a year. Professor Bhattacharyya leads strategy development sessions and operates programmes specifically for regional enterprises.

But its influence is international. The Business Advanced Technology Centre, set up with Pounds 10 million from the Malaysian government, is in its fifth year of operation. The group has a similar centre in Thailand, supported by Thai industries, and a $200 million centre for engineering management is being built in Calcutta.

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