5 April, 2012, by Paul Yeomans
Castles and Factories
Just as castles provided the source of strength for medieval towns, and factories provided prosperity in the industrial age, universities are the source of strength in the knowledge based economy of the twenty‐first century. – Lord Dearing, former University of Nottingham Chancellor.
For me that seems like a good way to open my first blog post.
There are lots of great examples of businesses and even whole sectors developing significantly because of the impact of University developed research, and its not a view that seems to have lost much relevance since he said it in 2002. In fact, the latest major government review into how businesses work with Universities (The Wilson Review) uses it as its opening paragraph ten years later.
But thinking about the imagery throws up some other similarities. Both medieval castles and the factories of the industrial revolution are buildings that make a statement, they are mainly big, proud creations, they only permit some people, and their high walls keep all but the lucky few out. Their impermeability was one of the reasons they were able to protect the prosperity they contained within for their inhabitants. And at times that’s how Universities can seem from a distance. They can seem intimidating. They are complex organisations, with very different structures from your average small or medium business, and often very different even from most corporates of comparable size.
But, there are some incredible opportunities within the walls, there are some amazing inventions with the opportunity to transform your own market place and there are some truly incredible academic minds working on problems that might affect your very own business. There are also a bunch of people who like me have sat on both sides of the castle walls and can hopefully help to guide any businesses who might want to explore how they might work with the University through those initial stages.
‘Ron’ Dearing may well have been right about the opportunity that Universities afford to the local and national economy but the major part of my job, and I suspect the topic for most subsequent posts from me here is ensuring that as many business as possible get access to those opportunities, and ultimately get to make some money as a result of it!