Hiding the wiring; reducing complexity in the innovation sector

Hiding the wiring; reducing complexity in the innovation sector

The recently published Dowling Review makes a number of recommendations on how the UK’s innovation system should be simplified. But how much of this is already taking place?

In December 2014, Dame Ann Dowling was asked by the Government to review how collaborations between businesses and universities could be more actively supported. The review, published in July 2015, suggests a number of improvements: encouraging university students to develop their business knowledge at an early stage of their tuition; providing more support to evolve short-term, project-based collaborations into longer-term partnerships; and a governmentInnovate-UK led campaign to raise the awareness of businesses to the benefits of collaboration with HEI.

A key finding of the report is a need to simplify the innovation system. Government and its funding agencies should seek to reduce complexity wherever possible. Where not possible, effort should be made to ‘hide the wiring’. In other words, business support offices and funders should work together to keep complex bureaucracy out of sight of enterprises that might otherwise be put off.

At the University of Birmingham, as with many other UK institutions, this simplification is already underway as part of our offer to businesses, particularly SMEs, with a single point of contact for business and an approach focusing on the business need. Working with businesses of varying sizes, the University has dedicated teams to generate new collaborations, support application development and monitor ongoing relationships.

The University’s Business Club has been acting as a brokerage hub between business and the University for almost two years, with a celebration event scheduled for 6th October that will highlight some of the innovative projects supported by the Club since its inception. The Club also provides a forum for advice on how to navigate the UK innovation funding landscape, offering specialist knowledge and advice on finding the right academic partners to make engagement as painless as possible.

Nevertheless, we recognise there is room for improvement. We are keen to hear how we can engage better with Innovate UK and the nationwide Catapult network. We must continue to exchange best practice with local Universities to ensure that the Midlands remains a competitive hub for business. Our Business Club will continue to develop in line with feedback.

It will be interesting to see how the Government implements Dame Anne’s recommendations over this five-year term.

Luke Jones is Research Development Administrator within Research and Innovation Services at the University of Birmingham. You can find out more about the University’s Business Club at their website.