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University Challenge: Businesses team up with leading academics

27 November 2014

University leaders have vowed to form close working links with local businesses, giving them the chance to make the most of the expertise, research and facilities at their disposal.
 
Representatives from the South East Midlands Universities (SEMU) addressed dozens of businesses at the Innovation for Business Conference & Marketplace event, held at the Transport Systems Catapult Centre in Milton Keynes on Wednesday, November 26.
 
An expert panel from Cranfield University, The Open University, The University of Northampton, University of Buckingham, University of Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire New University and University College Milton Keynes (UCMK) showcased their potential to support businesses in becoming more competitive and innovative.
 
The event, organised by the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP) through their Velocity Business Support programme, aimed to support innovation and economic growth and to explore the challenges of innovation and commercialism. 
 
Daniel Mouawad, chief executive of SEMLEP, said: “These universities are our very own ‘Magnificent Seven’. Local businesses can take advantage of the phenomenal wealth of knowledge in our universities. It’s time to start thinking big and thinking collaboratively.”
 
Delegates learnt how best to connect and extract value from knowledge transfer opportunities and about new funding opportunities, innovation, collaboration, entrepreneurship and growth.
 
The event also saw the unveiling of the new ‘Universities Mean Business’ prospectus, produced in partnership with SEMLEP, which sets out in clear and simple terms the offer that universities in the South East Midlands provide through their higher education, innovation and research activities.
 
Greg Clark, Minister for Universities, Science and Cities said: "The collaboration between these seven universities in the South East Midlands and local businesses is an excellent example of how to get the most from the UK’s education, innovation and research potential. 
 
“This prospectus clearly sets out the exciting offer for local businesses and will help deliver long-term economic growth for the region.”  
 
Each university attending the event was given 10 minutes to explain how they could benefit local businesses if they were to team up with them on future projects.
 
Professor Sir Peter Gregson of Cranfield University said: “We are a specialist university with a very distinctive remit. We transform people and organisations. We create leaders in technology and management.”
 
Dr Sanjoo Paddea focused on ‘Stress Map’, The Open University’s measurement services business unit which is one of only two facilities worldwide which offers The Contour Method residual stress measurement services.  Stress Map draws on the capability and expertise of the Materials Engineering  Group and is effective in identifying stresses that may cause premature failures particularly in the transport and utilities industries.
 
John Spoerry from the University of Buckingham said: “We are an independent university but we punch well above our weight. We get people to open up their minds. Rather than concentrating on teaching, we focus on learning.”
 
Dr Nick Lancaster of the University of Bedfordshire said: “Our vision is a world where all, including businesses, are able to benefit from transformational educational experiences.”
 
Dr Paul Sant of UCMK looked at the importance of ‘big data’ in the business world and added: “Data can potentially make you money and let you do things in a more efficient way; we would love to work with businesses and would welcome them into our innovation space.”
 
The concept of ‘social innovation’ was the main focus for Clive Lawrence-Forbes of the University of Northampton, who said: “The companies that perform the best are those that invest back into their communities to improve peoples’ lives.”
 
Ian Harper, general manager of Buckinghamshire Education, Skills and Training (BEST), a new partnership venture between Buckinghamshire New University and Aylesbury College, added: “We already work with a number of local SMEs and we can deliver a range of diverse, contemporary and vibrant projects.”
 
Collectively, the South East Midlands Universities (SEMU) generate a combined annual income exceeding £928 million (2012/13) through their higher education, innovation and research activities.
 

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