Universities, government and business must work together to drive economic growth and social well-being, urged speakers at a University of Bath event exploring the benefits of the ‘Golden Triangle’ of collaborative working.

Chaired by Professor Veronica Hope Hailey, Dean of the School of Management and Vice-President Corporate Engagement, the event brought together keynote speakers and panellists from the three sectors to share understanding of how working in partnership can support the South West’s ‘powerhouse’ agenda and maximise the Industrial Strategy to boost productivity and earning power across the UK, also bringing social benefits.

The event was opened by Professor Jens Roehrich, Director of the HPC Supply Chain Innovation Lab who introduced Ken Owen Supply Chain Director, EDF Energy’s Hinkley Point C (HPC), to showcase how the company is working with government internationally, nationally and regionally, and the University of Bath, to create a lasting legacy of social and economic benefits for the South West and the UK.

EDF Energy has developed a new way of bringing local small and medium-sized businesses into its supply chain, thanks to support from regional government. Researchers in the University of Bath’s HPC Supply Chain Innovation Lab will provide insight into this approach that will benefit policymaking and large-scale capital projects of the future.

Professor Per Holten-Andersen, President of Copenhagen Business School, discussed a research project drawing on 50-years’ worth of data from the Statistics Denmark digital registration system for all Danish citizens, showing that publicly funded Higher Education is providing good value for money in the country. Looking at more than 17,000 firms, those with the highest growth and innovation employed the greatest number of graduates and productivity is closely linked to university collaborations.

A panel discussion brought together George McFarlane, Sector Development Director at the CBI; West of England Mayor Tim Bowles; Derek Allen, Innovation Lead, Energy Clean Growth and Infrastructure at Innovate UK; Matthew Kirk, International Affairs Adviser at Squire Patton Boggs global law firm; and Professor Beverly Tyler, from North Carolina State University to discuss in more depth the role of regional government in understanding local needs and strengths; funding from central government funding; and lessons from overseas.

Tim Bowles, Mayor of the West of England, said: “Regional government is best placed to ensure that our skills provision, our business support and our infrastructure are designed in the right way to meet challenges The Golden Triangle is vital to us and it’s the whole ethos of our Local Enterprise Partnerships. As regional government we have a chance to do things differently – to work a lot closer with business, with our skills providers, with our innovators, and researchers so that we are constantly looking at what the future is going to look like.”

George McFarlane, from the CBI, described the need for the Golden Triangle as stronger than ever due to three big challenges facing the UK in economic terms: intensifying global competition; disruption from technology; and the challenge of 9 out of 10 UK cities performing below the European average when it comes to productivity.

He outlined the opportunities around skills development, innovation and management practices, saying: “We cannot realise these opportunities without collaboration between the three points of the Golden Triangle. Business brings the real world experience, the consumer focus and the supply chain that can really help drive change across the economy. Universities bring the world-leading science-based teaching and international research to help drive us forward and government brings the leadership, policy framework and strategy to give the long term confidence to invest and drive change.”

Professor Veronica Hope Hailey, Dean of the University’s School of Management, the leading business school in the South West, said: “The ‘Golden Triangle’ is one of the most critical debates that UK Plc can have. We have some of the world’s best Universities and we offer an environment that is good for businesses to work in. This is not an academic, theoretical debate, it is a live issue and one that will be increasingly urgent in a post-Brexit world. But this debate is broader than just an economic one. By harnessing the power of business and policy, underpinned by rigorous academic research this model will benefit wider society as a whole.”

The event was part of the University’s Look Further series, bringing together industry and academia to discuss collaborative approaches to solving big issues.