Company capacity major barrier to greater university collaboration

Businesses have been urged to create greater capacity for collaboration with universities amid fears that innovation and productivity will be impacted.

New research by the Centre for Business Research at the University of Cambridge and the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB) found businesses work with universities to solve a wide array of problems to unlock new opportunities and drive up productivity. However, collaboration is hindered by a businesses’ own lack of capacity to work with universities, as well as insufficient information on the opportunities of partnering with a university.

The report, published today, sets out the findings of a survey of almost 4,000 businesses on their interactions with universities. This is the largest ever survey of its type in the UK.

Dr Joe Marshall, Chief Executive of NCUB said: “We are all feeling the pinch of a difficult global economy. The Government’s plan is to grow the economy and drive up productivity through knowledge, research and innovation. More than ever, this requires our world leading universities to work with businesses to raise productivity and grow knowledge intensive economies right across the UK. Our survey shows that more businesses see the benefits of interacting with a university today than they reported in 2009.”

Marshall continued: “However, the results of new research published today also make clear that barriers still exist, particularly caused by lack of capacity in companies, as well as a shortage of information provided by universities. This is holding back greater collaboration and is costing UK innovation. Now is the time for universities, businesses and policy makers to act on the findings to ultimately strengthen the ties with the private sector that are so central to our economy and society.”

The report found that when asked what the barriers were to working with universities many revolved around accessing the information as to who and how to contact the relevant teams.

It found 52% of businesses said an important barrier was lack of their own resources, while 46% of businesses said an important barrier was difficulty in identifying a partner. For businesses who reported no interactions with universities, the most important reason was a lack of information on how and why to interact with universities. However, the amount of businesses that think collaboration has relevant to them has almost doubled since 2009.

Professor Alan Hughes of Imperial College Business School, who led the research at the Centre for Business Research, at the University of Cambridge, added: “The research published today is an important resource for those trying to understand the current state of business-university interaction in the UK. This study builds on a series of work covering both academic and business perspectives on UK-Industry knowledge exchange from 2005 to 2021. This is the largest ever survey sample of UK companies and provides unique insights into the diverse types, forms and locations of interactions”.

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