‘Universities must be far more proactive in sharing research with small companies’

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THE RELATIONSHIP between universities and businesses came under the spotlight today as a director at one of Yorkshire’s most successful international companies said academic institutions must do a better job in sharing their expertise with small companies.

Leeds University hosted a debate to look at the links between business, higher education and the wider region after publishing a report claiming that it contributes £1.3bn to the UK economy.

Speaking at the debate, Bill McElroy, a director at engineering group Turner and Townsend, said: “We have heard today about all the new businesses that have started up in the region over the last few years. Well, they are not here.”

He added: “I don’t think we are doing anything like enough. I don’t think we are reaching out to the people who need the most help, the ones who if they are really going to take off and grow need access to research and told about the future.

“Universities probably need to be far more proactive than they even are today to reach out through bodies like the CBI and say ‘we are here, what do you want to do with us, what are your burning issues?’ Without that we are just living in a bit of a bubble.”

Lesley Thompson, a director at academic publisher Elsevier, said in a data-driven world, there are more efficient ways of sharing research between universities and business.

“If every time I go onto Amazon, it tells me what I think I might want to buy, I can’t quite understand why we can’t do some of those activities to help productivity and connections across the UK.”