A helpful steer on how to build
The summer period yielded up Professor Dame Anne Dowling's Review of Business and University Research Collaborations here in the UK. This is a piece of work commissioned by Government to enable it, and other stakeholders in this space, to understand how we can better support productive interaction.
Results seem to boil down to keeping things simple and making it easier for businesses to make connections with the right people - and then to helping ensure that relationships can evolve to deliver what is aspired to.
What we find exciting is that Professor Dame Anne Dowling brings to the fore the notion that, in her words, 'strong, trusting relationships between people in business and academia form the foundation for successful collaboration'. Whilst delivering a built environment that helps with this is not one of her recommendations (!) we think this is a clear steer about the objectives we should set ourselves as we look to build ever more productivity and research excellence through collaboration. We know that creating places that grow a community, that builds 'social capital', effectively who knows who, can contribute to this agenda significantly. Getting to know people at an individual level, and being able to get to people you don't know through a friend of a friend, is very powerful, if trusting relationships are what we need! We see this as a firm endorsement that there are benefits to being part of a vibrant, relevant community, and that hard work in developing such communities, across disciplines and around research/commercial R&D, is a worthwhile pursuit for those of us engaged in it.
At detailed level I would add that we do like the recommendation that Innovate UK, collaborating with others, should develop a system of peer-to-peer advice for business leaders seeking to get involved in collaborative research, or innovation, for the first time. We will be encouraging a number of our key university clients to work with them to help facilitate such discussion in the very places where we are trying to build cultures of collaboration.