Evidence to Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee on Business-University collaboration.

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We are responding to this inquiry because manufacturers see innovation as vital for their growth; manufacturers use innovation to develop new markets, differentiate their companies, boost competitiveness and respond to regulation.

• Innovation is a challenging process: it is risky, and manufacturers can lack the facilities and expertise to innovate successfully by themselves. Collaboration is a key tool manufacturers use to overcome barriers to innovation and UK manufacturers are highly collaborative when it comes to working with customers and suppliers.

• In contrast, UK companies’ level of collaboration with universities is lower than in some international comparator nations, though policy changes over the last couple of decades have supported and enabled universities and businesses to work together. Interventions such as KTPs, and more recently Catapult centres, have been particularly valuable.

• While these schemes can aid business-university collaboration, there are problems with awareness, SME engagement and the level of funding available. Long term stability is a key factor in enabling awareness and uptake of innovation support.

• Working with universities on innovation is a highly valuable tool for businesses. However, working with universities is not the only way businesses look to overcome barriers to innovation, nor should it be. The innovation landscape should be considered systematically to ensure that there is a wide range of support that reflects the wide-ranging challenges innovators face along the innovation spectrum.

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