How Yorkshire's business-academia partnerships drive innovation and success: Gareth Scargill

The business world is changing fast, and tech is taking the lead. It has become crucial for industry and academics to pool resources together to drive innovation, which in turn offers great potential for generating new ideas and developing technological advancements.

For academic institutions, such as the University of Leeds, collaborating with businesses can offer real world applications for research, and great career opportunities for students and graduates.

On the other hand, businesses get to make use of research and development capabilities, and benefit from the expertise and knowledge that academics bring.

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Nexus, our innovation community at the University of Leeds, is taking full advantage of these collaboration benefits.

Gareth Scargill offers his expert insightGareth Scargill offers his expert insight
Gareth Scargill offers his expert insight

Business and academia cooperation is not only beneficial for Nexus members, but also for wider societal development and boosting the economy. Exchanging ideas and know-how helps with applying real world situations, and perspectives, into academic research, which in turn makes it more relevant to everyday life.

Knowledge and theories from academics, when combined with business practices, can lead to breakthroughs in several fields. Nexus was initially developed to help recognise business needs and connect them with leading research insights to uncover and develop new innovation opportunities.

We have particularly found our stride in the spaces of Healthtech, Fintech, and Smart Cities. Take one of our members, Videregen, for example, a company looking to revolutionise organ replacements. Their innovative technology has potential applications across a range of disease areas in the medical sector. The organisation has seen great benefits since joining Nexus in 2021, including securing £500,000 in funding from Innovate UK.

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Nexus support has played a vital role in facilitating the company’s growth and development.

A key benefit of collaboration is the potential for increased funding. Industry partners can provide necessary intel, infrastructure, and market access to support this process. By partnering with academics, businesses are able to maximise their visibility with investors attached to research and development.

At Nexus, businesses benefit from strong connections with innovation funding bodies and are connected to relevant funding streams. Northern Gritstone, a collaborative effort between the universities in Leeds, Sheffield and Manchester works to fund science and IP-rich businesses in the North of England. We have found that their remit fits directly with our members and their funding requirements.

When academia and industry collaborate, they can develop new products that have the potential to disrupt markets and create new industries. In Leeds this has led to job creation, patents, and spin-out companies, with revenue that can be reinvested into further research and development in the area.

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Setting up strong academic-industry collaborations allows for joint tackling in large-scale social, environmental and health challenges. Universities often possess the knowledge and resources to analyse these challenges, while businesses have the infrastructure and financial resources to implement these solutions at scale.

We’ve seen Nexus partnerships spark innovation, boost economic development, and promote societal betterment and life-long learning. But in order to reap these benefits, it is essential for both academia and industry to actively work towards developing a mutually beneficial partnership that encourages knowledge sharing and collaborative innovation.

Gareth Scargill is Director at Nexus

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