When business partners get that sinking feeling

Rick Rylance offers academy guidance for business collaborations

June 20, 2013

The chief executive of the Arts and Humanities Research Council has challenged university technology transfer offices to work better with emerging partners in the creative industries.

Citing a recently published survey of entrepreneurs’ attitudes to engaging with universities, Rick Rylance said that in small and “micro” businesses, there was “a lot of exasperation verging on disgust” around “delays surrounding establishing contracts and the fussiness that institutions have around intellectual property”.

Another concern for the firms, which may have modest or unpredictable cash flows, were tardy payments and incomprehensible academic language, he told the Association of Research Managers and Administrators annual conference, held in Nottingham on 11 and 12 June.

Other findings in the report, Connecting and Growing Businesses Through Engagement with Higher Education Institutions, commissioned by the AHRC, Creative England and the European Creative Industries Alliance, include the asymmetry between business and academic years, use of language, the pace of work and divergent collaborative aims.

“The academic researcher wants to produce a paper, the business or public body wants to make a living, and those two things are not necessarily the same,” Professor Rylance said. He also noted that these were problems for the research world as a whole and not just technology transfer offices, adding that councils can be “a bit obscure in the way we describe things”.

They sometimes devise “complex and potentially contradictory guidelines” and conduct business too slowly, he added. “So if this is a bit of a leaky boat, and I fear that’s a perspective we do have to think about, then we are in it with you.”

Professor Rylance said that the UK’s creative sector was now as valuable as its pharmaceutical industry.

The way research and knowledge-transfer offices “engage with this untapped potential within the humanities and develop it relative to the creative economy is one of the challenges that lies ahead for us”, he said.

elizabeth.gibney@tsleducation.com

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