New research from UUKi: UK Universities and International Innovation launched by Jo Johnson in Shanghai

27 September 2016

"…our future will be materially affected by how successfully researchers and innovators are able to collaborate internationally."

Dr Nick Rousseau, Former Head of International Innovation Strategy, International Knowledge and Innovation Unit, Department of Business Innovation and Skills (BIS).

A new report by Universities UK International, with support from BIS (now BEIS), details the breadth of UK universities' international activities which foster innovation and university-business interaction.

University-business interaction and knowledge exchange more widely are well researched in a domestic setting, but there is less research into how UK universities contribute to international innovation. This report gives timely examples of such contributions.

Developed to inspire further international collaborations, the report also serves to inform policy makers about the role universities play in the development of innovation in the UK and globally. This is timely in light of the potential implications for the UK's place in a global knowledge economy following the EU referendum result.

The report was launched in Shanghai last week by Jo Johnson MP, UK Minister of State for Universities and Science, as he visited China for a series of events highlighting the strength of UK-China education and science and innovation relationships.

The report recommendations include:

For government and funders:

  • The UK should seek to maintain access to and influence over future EU research programmes.

  • The UK should invest in expanding and promoting opportunities for international collaboration through new bilateral and multilateral research schemes.

For university leadership:

  • Encourage the circulation of academics internationally and with potential innovation partners.

  • Senior leadership figures should be prepared to travel with academics and meet counterparts in overseas institutions in order to establish personal relationships.

  • Communicate to academics a clear career path for the highly successful innovator. 

For researchers:

  • Academic excellence is not sacrificed by engaging in practical innovation; often it helps maintain research excellence.

  • Seek to travel and engage with international counterparts in all sectors as innovation often emerges from the unexpected sharing of ideas.

  • Reassure industry partners that their concerns will be understood by ensuring you have team members with experience in deals between academia and industry, or by involving knowledge exchange staff.

The report also features case studies of innovative practice:

  • Lancaster University - pairing UK and China SMEs through university research programmes

  • University of Ulster - spinning out medical technology

  • Cardiff University - designing a pan-European renewable energy 'super-grid'

  • Aston University - the establishment of a new university in Vietnam

  • University of Aberdeen - commercialisation of an entirely new Alzheimer's drug in collaboration with a Singaporean university spin-out

  • University of Southampton - globally partnering with big nutrition to understand epigenetics

  • University of Warwick - building an international team to revolutionise car manufacturing with remote laser welding

  • Harper Adams University - building innovative and sustainable farming in Zambia

  • University of St. Andrews - re-purposing marine imaging technology

  • The University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) - developing a resource to link foreign graduates with world-class jobs in their home countries

  • Setsquared Partnership - supporting the development of Italy's entrepreneurs

  • Sheffield Hallam University - a powerful global research network targeting online security threats

Daniel Shah, Assistant Director, Policy, UUKi comments:

"Our Universities are among the UK's most vital assets, right at the heart of the innovation ecosystem. For the UK to prosper in a global knowledge economy and make a success of its new international relations, universities must be central to the UK's world-wide innovation efforts. This report highlights diverse UK university success stories in contributing to international innovation and offers guidance to institutions looking to develop in this area."

View the report here.


For further information please contact Miranda Thomas,

Notes to Editors

Universities UK International (UUKi) represents all the UK's higher education bodies internationally. It acts for the UK higher education sector at Governmental and EU policy forums and enhances the sector's ability to compete in a global market by providing intelligence on internationalisation and European policy development. UUKi initiates and carries out high profile projects and activities, commissions research and produces publications to support and develop the UK higher education sector's international activities. UUKi is part of Universities UK, and is also funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, Scottish Funding Council, Department for Employment and Learning (Northern Ireland), GuildHE, the Higher Education Academy and the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education.​​


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