Innovation and collaboration will always be essential to power progress in our societies and I think are a crucial part of what universities in particular can offer in partnership with others.
This is especially important now as we begin to recover from Covid-19, and I have been pleased to play what role I can as a member of both the Economic Renewal Partnership – led by B&NES – and as a board member for the West of England Economic Recovery Taskforce.
The University of Bath has evolved considerably since 1966, when it was established to advance learning and knowledge by teaching and research, particularly in science and technology, and in close association with industry and commerce.
Although much has changed since its establishment as Bath University of Technology, the vision of our founders remains as critical today as it was in 1966. At the outset technology was described as “the point at which science intersects society” and used to frame the activities of the University. The importance of empowering a University community to draw on understandings of science and society to address the key challenges of our time, remains as important as ever.
During the pandemic I have been struck by how science has been at the forefront of the globe’s efforts to fight back against Covid-19, most obviously in the extraordinary achievements of scientists around the world to develop several highly effective vaccines at astounding pace.
That is no accident, and shows the immense potential when academia works with business, governments and others to address the challenges that affect us all. By being a place where creative, curious and intellectually rigorous people make new discoveries and develop new understandings, Universities are drivers of innovation.
This goes beyond educating and preparing for the workforce the next generation of students who will become the leaders and innovators of tomorrow, as crucial as that will always be for a University.
The University is aware of its responsibility to contributing to the global good. We have identified three areas of research strength, Sustainability Health & Wellbeing; and Digital, all at the heart of the greatest global challenges and opportunities of our time.
To give just some very brief examples of how we are doing this, The Institute for Advanced Automotive Propulsion Systems (IAAPS) facility, to be based at the Bristol and Bath Science Park, will work closely with industry to accelerate the development of clean-vehicle technologies, building on 40 years of expertise and creating hundreds of jobs in the process.
The Centre for the Analysis of Motion, Entertainment Research and Applications, (CAMERA) has seen a new motion capture facility open this year at the Bottle Yard Studios in Hengrove, Bristol, as it continues its work with partners from the creative arts and entertainment industry, health sector and sports associations, as well as research institutes around the world. You can read more about IAAPS, CAMERA and some of our other exciting work in the University of Bath profile later in the publication.
We are very aware of the impact that our activities can have in respect of entrepreneurship, both driven by our staff and students, in addition to collaborators and other stakeholders. We have a track record of success in this field as demonstrated by the recent UK Knowledge Exchange Framework evaluation which showed the IP and commercialisation of the University in the top 10% of its benchmarked group. We have active plans to advance entrepreneurship including initiatives such as the School of
Management’s plans for an Accelerator and our plans for a Makespace. We are also very proud to host SETsquared in Bath, which has been ranked the global number one university business incubator multiple times. This year marks the 20th year of operation of the Bath Innovation Centre, supported by the University, and in that time by offering world-leading incubation support services, enterprise activities and access to investment networks, it has helped more than 1,000 start-ups raise more than £1bn of investment.
Partnerships are important in many of these activities, and hence we have been very pleased to be engaged with Bath Spa University, Bath College, B&NES and the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) in preparing a proposal to create an entity, iSTART. In addition to having a skills agenda, particularly within the creative and digital sectors, there is the opportunity potentially to enhance innovation through co-location with innovative start-up businesses, small and medium-sized enterprises.
By such action, the University continues to seek to deliver on its enduring Mission, namely: to deliver world-class research and teaching, educating our students to become future leaders and innovators, and benefiting the wider population through our research, enterprise and influence. That impact, particularly in the local area, is one which we hope will bring lasting and real benefit.