University and business collaborations fell in early days of pandemic
By Sarah Wood
University and business collaboration were down by nearly a third in the early part of the pandemic, according to new data published today (December 3).
Dr Joe Marshall, chief executive of the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB), said: "New analysis shows that the number of collaborations and partnerships between universities and businesses fell during the Covid-19 pandemic. Between 2018/19 and 2019/20 the number of interactions fell by nearly a third.
"University-business collaboration is vital to recover, grow and attract private research and development (R&D) investment. Collaboration is essential to achieve the Government's target of spending 2.4 per cent GDP in R&D by 2027, as well as developing the highly skilled workforce needed for the future."
The research found that, while this period saw some high profile collaborations, such as the work to create lifesaving vaccines, it also saw offices, labs and collaborative spaces close, and many activities delayed or halted.
Marshall continued: "Alongside the pandemic, other barriers to collaboration were economic challenges such as skills shortages, with vacancies hitting an all-time high, and supply chain issues. In no uncertain terms, collaboration will be vital to the UK's future success. To realise the UK's ambition to become a more innovative, prosperous and highly skilled economy, ties between businesses and universities will need to be strengthened in the years to come."
The research also found some positives in the way universities are linking up with business and communities.
Marshall said: "The new analysis also reveals exceptionally high levels of research commercialisation activity. Universities have put significant effort into supporting and maintaining their partnerships with their communities and businesses. Across a range of indicators, universities have ramped up activity and engagement, in a clear sign of their centrality in combatting the crisis and leading recovery.
"Key research commercialisation indicators, including licenses, patents and spinouts, grew. The number of new licences granted by universities grew by a third over a single year. It's hugely positive that the nation's universities have continued to invest in, not away from, collaboration, research and innovation. Innovation is key if we are to become a science superpower: it is the silver bullet to help fuel our recovery."
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