Government response to Dowling Review of business-university collaborations – brief summary

collaboration-1106196_960_720The Government published its response to the Dowling Review on 20th December welcoming and strongly supporting the review which it says is reflected in the £100m over four years it announced in the last budget to support university-business collaboration – ‘The Dowling Review will continue to guide our ongoing work to reform and simplify public support for research and development and maximise the potential benefits of collaboration between business and our academic research base.’

This is a summary of the main points:

  • UK Research and Investment (UKRI) will be the Government’s instrument to connect businesses with research by allocating funding for research and innovation, act as a champion for the UK’s world class system and drive future discovery and growth. It will incorporate the functions of the seven Research Councils, Innovate UK, and HEFCE’s research funding and knowledge exchange responsibilities (assuming it is approved by Parliament).
  • Public support for the innovation system is too complex. Actions taken by the Government include a simplified offer for Innovate UK funding, thinking about how to design a new Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund delivered by Innovate UK and research councils, and research councils are looking at changing the system of research and innovation funding. Clearly there is a lot of work to be done on this one.
  • People are central to successful collaborations. The emphasis on research impact and the research environment alongside outputs is seen as a way to encourage and reward collaboration with business and commercialisation of research in the public interest. Various existing initiatives are listed that support academics to develop collaborative skills or promote the benefits of collaboration. However it doesn’t say much else about how to meet Dowling’s recommendations on ‘…creating an incentive framework for universities and businesses which promotes the transfer of ideas and people between business and academia, and recommended supporting students to develop business awareness at an early stage of their research careers, continuing to fund schemes which support mobility between academia and business and ensuring that researchers who are successful in collaborations are valued in terms of career progression and assessment of research output – including by increasing the emphasis on collaboration in the Research Excellence Framework (REF).’ It says it’s up to universities how they direct their priorities to suit local strengths and needs.
  • Effective brokerage is crucial, particularly for SMEs, and continued support is needed for activities that help seed collaborations. The Gateway to Research web portal is seen as a step towards meeting the need for digital tools to identify potential research partners and the National Centre for Universities and Business is developing an ‘Intelligent Brokerage Tool’. The government has reaffirmed its long term commitment to knowledge exchange including funding for the Higher Education Innovation Fund, and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is working with the Higher Education Funding Council for England to develop detailed proposals for allocating this funding to support universities in England. The Dowling Review highlighted Impact Acceleration Accounts (IAAs) and recommended their use more widely. This is likely to be welcomed by those universities who currently do not have an IAA.
  • Pump prime funding would stimulate the development of high quality research collaborations with critical mass and sustainability and more should be done to help existing efforts evolve from short-term, project-based collaborations to longer term partnerships focussed on use-inspired research. The document simply lists existing strategies that are aimed at addressing this.
  • Technology transfer offices need to prioritise knowledge exchange over short term income generation, and further work is required to improve approaches to contracts and IP agreements. The government has a clear expectation that exploitation of research means prioritising the long term benefits to the nation. This priority is reflected in the support and incentives provided by public research funding and the REF is the principal tool for incentivising behaviour around university research. It also points to the Lambert toolkit supporting IP processes but acknowledges that there is a need to simplify complex and time-consuming processes to agree collaborations. The McMillan review of technology transfer practice and the development of the knowledge exchange framework are cited as progress in this area.
  • Government strategy on innovation needs to be better coordinated and have greater visibility. They are aiming to achieve this through the Industrial Strategy and establishing UKRI. They also see a role for the Science and Innovation Audits bringing together businesses, universities and local enterprise partnerships. The Accelerated Access Review of the NHS also supports innovations in medicine

You can read the Government’s response to the Dowling Review in full here.

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Find out more about Participatory Action Research with training days in 2017

collaboration-1106196_960_720Three workshops are being offered by the Participatory Research Hub for those interested in finding out more about this way of researching in collaboration. The workshops are open to those new to and established as researchers in universities, the voluntary and public sectors, communities and activists. Participatory research is an excellent route to research impact and one of the courses focusses on ways to involve policy-makers and practitioners in research that helps to develop policy and practice.

The three courses, all to be held at the Lindisfarne Centre, St Aidan’s College, Durham University are:

  • Participatory Action Research 1: Introduction to PAR, 3rd February 2017
  • Participatory Action Research 2: Embedding participation in research practice, 3 March 2017
  • Developing Policy and Practice through Participatory Research, 15 May 2017

To find out more about the workshops and to book your place visit: https://www.dur.ac.uk/socialjustice/events/2017events/

For further advice, information and toolkits about participatory research visit: www.dur.ac.uk/socialjustice/events/  

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Research, Impact and the UK Parliament

A training event aimed at researchers at any stage of their careers is being held in Newcastle on 23 September, 10-1.30 run by the UK Parliament Outreach and Engagement Service.

Houses.of.parliament.overall.arpThis interactive session will help you:

  • understand Parliament’s role and processes
  • learn how research is used in the UK Parliament
  • be able to identify opportunities to feed your research into Parliament’s work
  • learn tips and advice on communicating your research at Parliament

There is an attendance fee of £40 and the event is being held at Newcastle University’s Business School. For more information: http://www.parliament.uk/get-involved/education-programmes/universities-programme/academic-research/ 

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The Benefits of University-Industry Collaborations

Dr Tamsin Saxton, guest blogger
Dr Tamsin Saxton, guest blogger

Guest blogger, Dr Tamsin Saxton, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Northumbria University shares the insights she gained at an event designed to provide information to support academics in creating and capitalising on opportunities to work with industry. Below, she summarises the key take-home points explaining why industry collaborations are useful, possible barriers to these collaborations, and how to go about setting up and developing collaborations.

Benefits of collaborations

Academics and universities have a lot to gain from collaborating with industry, whether that be local small businesses, global enterprises, or something in between. Industry collaborations can add substantive content, innovation, and expertise to research funding applications. In some instances, industry might contribute directly to university projects, perhaps by supplying funding, or making available rich and extensive data sets. The best applied research addresses fundamental real-world problems; one of the best ways to uncover those problems can be through industrial collaborations, and successful resolution of those problems can lead to the kind of impact that may well be needed in the next REF. Industry collaborations can also enhance the student experience, such as through work experience opportunities or guest lecture invitations.

Industry also has a lot to gain from collaborations with universities. Universities can offer the best in cutting-edge research, which can be tremendously exciting to an enterprise which might be using outdated approaches, or might just not have the time and resources to dedicate to innovation. Even the largest organisations often do not have the research capacity to innovate constantly in relation to all of their activities, which is why we see universities collaborating with industries of all shapes and sizes. A university collaboration can be a mark of prestige and value to a business organisation, increasing its value and standing among its competitors, and also in the eyes of evaluators such as investors. Collaborations also provide opportunities for businesses to reflect upon their working practices.

Collaborations with businesses in the North-East of England have their own particular benefits. Compared to the rest of the UK, the North-East has the lowest number of start-up companies per capita. Accordingly, local collaborations can help improve this record, while building the regional economy and innovative capacity, and potentially tackling specific societal and economic challenges.

Barriers to collaboration

The establishment of industrial collaborations, however, entails overcoming a number of barriers. Universities do not always market their expertise well; it can be very difficult for external organisations to find out essential information: the expertise, skills and equipment available; who is available for and interested in collaborations; how to go about making and developing contacts. Universities can appear to be alien, intimidating environments; the idea of the ‘ivory tower’ can be off-putting. In addition, universities can be perceived to be expensive working partners, they have different priorities from businesses, and businesses and universities speak a different language and run on different timescales.

Exploration-Innovation - M Schmidt (CC by 2.0)
Exploration-Innovation – M Schmidt (CC by 2.0)

Developing successful projects

There are a number of ways to try to overcome the barriers to collaboration and develop successful projects. University Business Engagement Managers are very happy to talk to academics and provide support. They can point academics to suitable business representatives who are also keen to encourage new projects that will support businesses. Indeed, it can often be wise to involve a trusted body, such as an organisation that provides representation for a set of industries, in a project or a funding application. This body can guide academics to suitable local contacts, and explain the priorities, schedules, and needs of the particular industry in question. It’s always important to keep in mind that successful projects are only built on successful relationships with people, and so building relationships has to be paramount. Starting with a small project, such as a dissertation project, can be a good way to build trust and knowledge of different working styles and needs. Finding out what the industry needs, and offering to help, is a more effective opening gambit than striding in with a request for money, input, or project commitment. Finally, once the project is up and running, then a few things might help it proceed smoothly: have a clear plan; establish common goals and projects; and build in engagement opportunities such as workshops or seminars where you keep people up to date with the project development and particularly its successes.

The event, ‘ESRC Impact Acceleration Account Capacity Building Event’, was held on 26th April 2016, and hosted by Newcastle University (Business School). This report was written by event delegate Dr Tamsin Saxton, Senior Lecturer in Psychology (https://www.northumbria.ac.uk/about-us/our-staff/s/tamsin-saxton)

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Free workshop to find out more about getting your research into Parliament

Houses of ParliamemtA limited number of spaces are available for ‘An introduction to engaging with Parliament for Researchers’ on 3rd February, 1-3pm, Durham University. Delivered by the Houses of Parliament’s Outreach Service, the afternoon will cover:

  • How Parliament uses research
  • The ways that your research could influence the work of Parliament
  • How to present your research effectively to get the attention of politicians.

Places are available on a first-come, first-served basis. To register, please contact admin.support@durham.ac.uk

 

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The impact of academia on Parliament

Houses of ParliamemtOver 40 per cent of impact case studies submitted to REF 2014 mentioned impact on policy. Recent analysis by the Paliamentary Office of Science and Technology shows that 45 per cent of Parliament-focused impact case studies were from social sciences.

An interesting article on the LSE Impact Blog, looks at how Parliament is currently engaging with academics, and how it might in the future. It identifies the density of universities with case studies mentioning Parliament in each region of the UK – can we do better next time North East? Read more here

 

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