Blog by Monika Antal, Yorkshire Universities
Understanding the UK’s comparative industrial strengths is an important component of the economic-growth agenda. Universities have a key role in driving development of the research-led technologies of the future, as well as producing students with the right technical skills and strategic expertise that industry needs. This is especially important in high-growth industries where the UK has a competitive advantage. Agri-Science is one of the ‘Eight Great Technologies’ in which the UK is set to be a global leader.
The National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB) convened a task force to make recommendations about business-university collaborations to increase the number and quality of talented and skilful graduates entering the food industry, and meet future research and innovation needs. NCUB state that a ‘food revolution’ is needed to meet future global demand. The revolution is likely to be knowledge-intensive, collaborative and integrative. It will build on a combination of big data, nano-technologies, genomics, and communication technologies. There will be increasing integration of renewables, ecological policies and improved consumer education with environmental literacy.
To ensure the UK can be a world-leader, collaboration between businesses and universities is vital, ensuring that courses reflect the needs identified within the industry. The food industry need to access highly talented graduates who leave university with the intellectual capacity to use technology in imaginative, productive and profitable ways. Effective collaboration and research will improve the otherwise weak links between the food industry, universities and the publicly-funded innovation system.
Yorkshire’s Universities have world leadings strengths in Agri-Science and Food Technology. The Witty Review (2013) showed that the Universities of York, Sheffield and Leeds are in the top 20 UK organisations for both Agri-Tech and Agri-Science research. Yorkshire Universities’ Technical Assistance team gathered information on the strengths of Agri-Tech and Bio-Renewables in the region’s universities; this included the Bio-Vale initiative led by the University of York. Bio-Vale will promote the region as an innovation cluster for the bio-economy.
Yorkshire’s expertise in these areas is now being recognised by Government. In 2014, Yorkshire Universities hosted an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), on the bio-economy in Yorkshire, to showcase the region as the place for technology investment in this area. A UK policy framework for the bio-economy has recently been launched by BIS, drawing on the discussions which took place at the APPG. Yorkshire’s universities have a vital contribution to make.
For further reading please find YU’s advocacy work on high level skills and graduate skills for business success here.