Question 1: Are the vision and steps 2.1 – 2.4, appropriate?

Question 1: Are the vision and steps 2.1 – 2.4, appropriate?

Posted by Anne Horan on Aug 1, 2011 11:25 am

Are the vision and steps 2.1 – 2.4, appropriate?

Re: Question 1: Are the vision and steps 2.1 – 2.4, appropriate?

Posted by Stephen Rimmer on Aug 6, 2011 11:40 am


There are a number of aspects in the industry collaboration that I do not agree with. Sorry, if any of this seems to contradict what is written but hopefully some of what I write below will be of use in this very important area. My general feeling is that the process you are going through now is important but you need to get to a lot more views from across the sectors.

1) 2.1 a. The regional aspect of collaboration is actually very important and this is one of the key ways that Universities can help SMEs. It is vital that governement has an effective University-Industry regional policy in which Universities can tak strategic decisions to provide support and concentrate innovation activities that are aligned with regional hubs and strengths. this is really important-we can look to areas such as Galway, Singapore and Silicon Valley to see just how important supporting regionalism is for University/Indisustry interactions is. We should encourgae government to support such activities with specific strenghths in both University activity and infrastructure support for industry located in specific areas-the best model would be Jarong Island, Singapore-we actually need to be able compete regions such as Jarong and that needs planning.
2) 2.1 b . This is completely wrong and this kind of model produces interactions that progress far too slowly. Many problems occur when Industry works with University administarors rather than the specific scientists with expertise and our experience is that progress and communication is too slow to be competitive if not driven by scientisrts and engineers.  Universities should be encouraged to strip out unnecessary levels of interaction in their collaboration processes. That said University level interaction and strong lead is clearly needed for strategic interactions such as those in my comments in 2.1. It is essential that Industry maintains strong research presence as well as promoting open innovation-this makes interaction faster and easier.
3) 2.1c This is also very wrong. If Universities went down this path we would loose flexability. For example, I currently maintain 7 funded collaborative projects with a further 3 in negotiation. These are in diverse areas of the polymer sector and each company requires different approaches to IP and confidentiality. Actually, I know of no areas of commerce were we would wish to loose flexibility in the way that this comment suggests. I am guessing that ou need to talk to  abraoder range of companies to get  a better feel of this I suspect that if we did do as this suggests University might loose as much as half of their contracts. What is needed is support for Universities to increase flexability and to increase the speed at which contracts can be established. 
4)2.1-again this is wrong. Why would we wish to develop such a model. We do not see this in commerce so we should Universities loose flexability? We already do this quite well and our ability to adapt to requirements is a vital component.
5) 2.1e makes sense and works best under a strong regional policy that provides infrastructure

6) 2.2a-this is a good point. Not enough government effort is being put into SMEs and the decrease in PhD provision will not help-this is the most effective way for SMEs to collborate with Universities.
7) 2.2b-Innovation vouchers should be scrapped as soon as possible-they are counter productive and relatively worthless. The effect of an innovation voucher is to teach companies that small amounts of ineffective work can be done on the cheap-our experience is that starting in this way very rarely leads to any more effective projects or progress. Short term projects are much better funded by supporting masters students or short term post-doc contracts. Universities need to be encouraged to provide permant contracts for post-docs, who are employed to work on short term contracts with full funding from industry-this can be a very effective and fast way to progress projects. The innovation vouchers really are a bad idea and a waste of funds. Instead SMEs should be encouraged to spend their funds in Universities and perhaps we should develop a sliding scale of tax breaks-perhaps tax concessions would begin once a company has funded at a level of 10,000 and then as the company spends more-more tax could be reclaimed. The key to improving the intercations that innocation vouchers aim at is improving the speed at which Universities interact not providing small amounts of funding at too small a lebel to be effective.
8) 2.2 c, d and e sound good. It is really important to either increase the timescales for return on investment especially for health-based innovations. The timescales expected by many VC are now making health innovation impossible-probably we need to see more public investment for longer before we need to involve VC-ie we should be expecting the public purse to pick up the costs for longer into the commercialisation process.
9) an aspect missing here is the need to provide Universities with funds to support patents into the regional/national filing stage.
10) 2.3 is good but I would add-Universities address course content to ensure it fits the modern chemical industries. 
11) 2.4-we already do this.
12) 2.5-Industry involvement in course contents should be welcomed. Industry should consider funding courses at all levels and in particular proactively funds the skills gap at FE level.


Re: Question 1: Are the vision and steps 2.1 – 2.4, appropriate?

Posted by Anne Horan on Aug 10, 2011 12:56 pm

Dear Stephen and Anne

Thank you both for your comments which are enormously helpful, I think it will generate some interesting debate on the Chemistry Landscape.


Re: Question 1: Are the vision and steps 2.1 – 2.4, appropriate?

Posted by Chris Satterley on Aug 10, 2011 5:19 pm

Dear Anne,

I'd also like to add my agreement with the comments above about making sure that the interaction with industrial partners is as direct as possible.

In my experience of managing and monitoring research projects carried out by universities for a large company I'd say that the best projects are those where I have direct contact with the academic or team of academics performing the work. The point about buidling teams is something important, but it is for universities internally to ecourage, not as a way of managing industrial interaction, but to improve the quality of what they deliver to industrial partners. It absolutely should not be about getting administrators to act as the 'customer facing' part of the operation and more about getting good interdepartmental colloboration that then allows good relationships developed in one department with industrial partners to be extended to other departments.

I believe the best place to start this process is to look at the links between chemistry and chemical engineering. In the UK we are very poor at bringing these two subjects together and, in my experience, communication between these two university departments is poor at a lot of UK universities. Compare this to continental Europe, especially Germany, where colloboration between chemists and chemical engineers in universities is much, much stronger and reflects far more of what it is actually like in industry.

Re: Question 1: Are the vision and steps 2.1 – 2.4, appropriate?

Posted by Tim Wilson on Aug 24, 2011 8:47 pm

Dear Anne,
The questions that you are asking are congruent with some of the questions that I am examining in my university/business collaboration review.  

Many thanks for stimulating the debate - I shall track the contributions
With best wishes
Professor Sir Tim Wilson

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