Research

Survey shows researchers committed to boosting economy through greater collaboration and engagement

New study highlights how UK academics are committed to working with employers across business and society for economic and societal impact.

A new survey of over 18,000 academics in the UK shows that the majority of academic researchers are committed to helping the British economy grow by engaging with employers across business and wider society.

The survey, the biggest of its kind, gives a comprehensive picture of the relevance of UK research to the economy and society.

It was carried out by Professor Ammon Salter, from our School of Management, with The Centre for Business Research (CBR) at the University of Cambridge and Imperial College Business School.

Findings show UK academics agree or strongly agree that higher education has a key role in UK competitiveness, 30 per cent actively work with private companies, and although basic research is vital, the bulk is user-inspired or applied.

Over half of the academics said working with outside partners influenced the way they shaped their teaching and almost a third that it increased the employability of their students.

The economic downturn did not lead to a huge decline or swings in the external engagement activities of academics, although there are signs activities may have become more strategically focused.

Bath is committed to working with industry, business and other funders to give access to the research expertise and knowledge at the University.

Dr Jon Hunt, Director of Research & Innovation Services explained: “Over the past decade at the University of Bath the close links we’ve harnessed with employers, across a range of different disciplines, has led to research collaborations, delivering outcomes and building trust. Employers, such as industry or government, are essential to our ability to demonstrate a wide range of societal benefits from our research and are the vehicle for getting our ideas to market.”

Ammon Salter, Professor in Innovation, said: “The study clearly shows the sustained commitment of UK academics to engage with external organisations, public and private. Such exchanges are driven by their desire to advance research and teaching, and to contribute to meeting societal challenges. It is critical that they have adequate time, organisational support and rewards for doing so.”

Professor Philip Nelson, Chair of the Research Councils’ Executive Group, and CEO of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), added: “This is an important piece of evidence to support the case for investment in research. It shows that the myth of academics closeted away in ivory towers is far from true. They are actively working within society in a two-way process of knowledge exchange.  Charities, businesses, government in the private, public and third sectors all benefit from the world class expertise held in our universities and researchers gain new insight to the needs and challenges of others.”

To read The Changing State of Knowledge Exchange and External Relationships: UK Universities 2005 -2015, see http://www.ncub.co.uk/reports/national-survey-of-academics.html.

This work was commissioned by the Research Councils, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS). It was managed by the National Centre for Universities and Business.

The School of Management was ranked eighth in the UK in the independently-assessed Research Excellence Framework. 89 per cent of their submitted case studies were deemed to have an outstanding or very considerable impact.

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