Reflections on the Witty Review: university leadership in Partnerships for Progress

This is the first of a series of four posts on the recent Witty Review Report on Universities and Growth.

1. Witty: Universities Facilitating Economic Growth

Sir Andrew Witty’s Review of Universities and Growth, Encouraging a British Invention Revolution (October 2013) is, all things considered, also encouraging for those involved in external engagement at universities.

Witty pictureWitty image










Preceding landmark reports on the university-business collaboration theme have included Lambert (2003), Sainsbury (2007) and Wilson (2012); this is an area of national significance that has preoccupied successive recent governments.

Witty calls for ‘an enhanced Third Mission’ in universities and proposes that all universities have stronger incentives to embrace this. He recommends that ‘The Government should make an explicit commitment to funding for knowledge exchange [Witty means this in its broader sense, see second post] alongside research and teaching, so that universities can develop long-term plans, confident in continued funding.

The Report is forceful in recommending that ‘universities should receive explicit responsibility for facilitating economic growth’. Despite universities’ extraordinary potential to enhance economic growth’, also highlighted by Sir Tim Wilson, Witty recognises that current complexity impedes this and current incentives are insufficient to realise this potential, proposing that Incentives should be strengthened to encourage maximum engagement from universities in the third mission alongside research and education’.

These are strong, consistent and persuasive statements, which recognise both inherent value and unfulfilled potential, and should provide encouragement to those working in university-business collaborations and local partnerships. Witty proposes a number of policy and funding mechanisms designed to help bring to fruition his vision for the UK to rediscover its ‘invention culture’ and ‘a globally competitive sense of timing and scale’, so that British ideas ultimately benefit Britain rather than foreign industries.

At the same time, we at Jisc Business and Community Engagement have just published ‘Partnerships for Progress’ which distils the outputs, experiences and good practices of 20 open innovation and access to resources projects enabled. These were local partnerships led by universities and FE colleges, delivering online information and innovation services.

Partnerships for Progress

There is a striking commonality between Witty’s recommendations and the national and local capabilities this Jisc BCE portfolio of projects sought to enable. The rest of this series of posts explores this commonality and analyses the Witty Report in 3 related theme areas, also noting areas not covered by the report, such as the transformative effect of digital technologies, which perhaps also have a key role to play in realising Witty’s vision. Not forgetting, of course, that it remains to be seen which of Witty’s recommendations the Government decides to support in its response.



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