Educational success drives economic growth. As the world economies slog through the impact of the financial crash, few governments have lost sight of the need to invest deeply and for the long-term in a most precious asset - their nation's talent. And the role of higher education in developing innovators and entrepreneurs in all fields is of vital importance to the UK's fortunes. As Gordon Moore, the founder of Intel said of one of the world's greatest innovation clusters: 'The most important contribution Stanford makes to Silicon Valley is to replenish the intellectual pool every year with new graduate students.'
So, today, in response to a request from the UK's Department of Business, and funded by private companies, universities, the four higher education funding councils, and the Technology Strategy Board, we are launching an independent National Centre for Universities and Business. (www.ncub.co.uk) The new Centre's ambition is to stimulate prosperity and well-being in the UK through world-class collaboration between companies and higher education.
Such partnerships and alliances are ever more vital in an intensely competitive global environment. The capacity for, and practice of innovation is what marks out successful economies, and a healthy higher education system in tune with the future needs of companies (in the broadest sense) is an extraordinary resource. Although the negative rhetoric from some politicians and pundits would have you believe otherwise, industry and universities in UK are already very good at collaborating in, for example, R&D. Indeed, the World Economic Forum places us second, next to Switzerland, but of course we need to build on this success. (http://goo.gl/vaRs2)
We are at the beginning of major transformations in HE, including the introduction of fees in England, as well as a global shift to open innovation in business that requires new rules of the collaboration game. And employers, from arts organisations to utility companies, are increasingly preoccupied with the development of rounded, well-educated talent rather than just someone with a set of skills or a degree.
In an era marked by concerns about graduate unemployment, a social contact needs to be developed between universities in the light of evidence not the heat of rhetoric. The National Centre will be precisely that - a Centre for everyone concerned about collaboration to engage with one another. It will celebrate success, offer practical advice, broker and facilitate relationships, campaign for change, and take responsibility for driving change.
Today we are open for business, but we need the help of everyone who cares about this. Join in.