New scheme to create new generation of business-aware researchers

Businessman in office working on laptop

A £5 million investment will help develop a new generation of business-aware researchers to further university-business collaboration in English universities.

The new business and entrepreneurial skills scheme aims to:

  • increase the movement of researchers between universities and businesses
  • improve employability routes and participation in business research and development.

It will focus on researchers who are in the early stages of their careers.

Collaboration with businesses

The project will support postgraduate and early career researchers (ECRs) to develop an improved awareness of the advantages of, and opportunities for, collaboration with businesses to address shared challenges.

They will also be supported to develop the competencies needed for effective identification of these opportunities and for confidently engaging with external organisations.

This will:

  • improve the cross-fertilisation of research and innovative thinking between academia and industry
  • support those embarking on research careers to capitalise on the potential for activities across the two domains.

Innovative programme of support

Research England, part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), made the award to the University of Exeter through its Research England development fund.

The project will be taken forward by a partnership of universities and others supported by the Chartered Association of Business Schools (Chartered ABS).

A team based at the University of Exeter will work with business schools across the UK to create an innovative programme of support for researchers.

The Chartered ABS will support the partnership of UK business schools developing the project. But the aim is to engage an even wider range of universities, business schools and other partners over time.

So far, the Chartered ABS has built relationships with university partners as well as business partners, such as GSK, Babcock and the Pennon Group.

An exciting partnership

David Sweeney, Executive Chair of Research England, said:

I am delighted to support this initiative to equip our talented researchers in engaging with industry partners, putting into practice our ‘people and culture strategy’ commitment to encourage more movement and collaboration between academia and industry.

Research England is grateful to the Chartered Association of Business Schools for bringing together an exciting partnership of universities, business schools and businesses to develop and deliver it.

Deep expertise in innovation

Professor Robert MacIntosh, Chair of Chartered ABS and Pro Vice-Chancellor at Northumbria University, said:

Business schools have deep expertise in innovation and bringing products and services to market.

They also excel in executive training and development.

We are therefore delighted at this opportunity to collaborate across a range of academic disciplines and with industry to equip academics with business skills.

It showcases the real value that business schools can add to their parent universities and to the wider economy.

Boosting skills of researchers

Professor Lisa Roberts, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Exeter, said:

We are delighted to be leading this important and exciting programme that will boost the business, management and entrepreneurial skills of researchers so that they can fully embrace the economic, social, environmental and commercial benefits of their work through collaborating with businesses and industry.

The University of Exeter is committed to working ever more closely with business by allowing access to our capabilities, expertise and skills so that we can together overcome the challenges of the 21st century, creating a sustainable, healthy and socially just future for all.

Four workstreams

The scheme will include four workstreams:

  1. Research into what already exists in this space, what is effective and where the gaps are.
  2. Development of a programme of activity that supports postgraduate and ECRs to build the competencies and mindsets necessary for effective cross-fertilisation of university-based research with industry-based activities.
  3. Multidisciplinary networking opportunities for postgraduate and early career researchers interested in engaging with industry.
  4. A campaign to champion the advantages of enhanced collaboration between academia and industry. Specifically focusing on postgraduate and ECRs and businesses who have yet to embrace the potential for collaboration with those in higher education institution.

The project is due to start in January 2023 and will run until January 2027.

Impactful training

At the same time, Innovate UK, part of UKRI, will expand and enhance their highly regarded Innovation to Commercialisation of University Research (ICURe) programme. The programme will provide more impactful training to academics wishing to commercialise their research.

Since ICURe was established in 2014, it has helped to create over 150 new companies, and 500 new jobs nationally.

It has also developed a UK wide commercialisation network of more than 2,000 researchers and business advisors.

Top image:  Credit: Drazen_, E+ via Getty Images

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