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Consultation by Dame Ann Dowling on business-university collaboration

The Academy of Medical Sciences has responded to Dame Ann Dowling’s request for evidence on how government can support the development of more effective UK collaborations between businesses and university researchers.

Status: Ongoing

In late 2014, Dame Ann Dowling DBE FREng FRS was asked by the Minister for Universities, Science and Cities, Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, to lead a review examining how government could support the development of more effective collaborations between businesses and university researchers in the UK. The Academy responded to a call for evidence from Dame Ann in March 2015.

Our response, which is available to download, identifies a number of key points:

  • A key barrier to collaboration is the cultural gap that currently exists between researchers working in industry, academia and the NHS. Of particular concern is the belief that scientists must compromise their intellectual principles in order to work in a commercial environment and the aspersions frequently cast on the integrity of scientists working in, and with, industry. These attitudes must be tackled if a culture of collaboration is to develop in the UK research system.
  • Freedom of movement between industry and academia is key to changing these attitudes and multiple stakeholders have a role to play in facilitating the flow of personnel between industry, academia and the NHS. Universities must also ensure that their recruitment policies and promotion criteria incentivise, recognise and reward collaboration.
  • Current VAT rules are a significant disincentive both to university-university and university-business collaborations. Our response recommends that the Government urgently reviews the impact of these rules and identify and implement mechanisms to reduce any detrimental effects.
  • Sustained government investment in innovation is required if long-term benefits are to be delivered, and continuity over the coming years will be essential if researchers are to gain knowledge and experience of the available routes to collaboration. Our response encourages the Government to increase the financial support available to translational academic research and innovative businesses through initiatives such as the Biomedical Catalyst Fund and Innovate UK.
  • Although the review focuses on university-business collaboration, our response points out that, in the life sciences sector, the NHS also has a crucial role to play in facilitating productive, long-term partnerships. Although progress has been made, more remains to be done to make the NHS an attractive place to conduct research.

As part of its contribution to the review, the Academy hosted a dinner with Dame Ann on 9 April to further discuss barriers to collaboration in the medical sciences. A brief meeting note is now available to download.


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