third arm gives helping hand to bring greater economic
prosperity and regional regeneration
changing world is forcing change upon higher education
as universities look beyond their traditional roles of
teaching and pure research for ways to stimulate change
in society and commerce through the extensive intellectual
and physical resources at their disposal. The University
of Leeds is responding creatively to these changes through
the formulation of a third arm to enable the
transfer of knowledge to, with and between business and
the wider community.
third arm concept is a long-term vision of synergistic
relationships between businesses, education and public
bodies to increase economic prosperity and entrepreneurial
activity within the University itself and far beyond.
all of this is new, as Pro-Vice Chancellor for information-technology
and communications, Professor David Hogg explains: "Activities
which we would now label as third arm have
been going on successfully at the University for decades
- in fact other universities look at Leeds with some envy
for our success in this area."Thirty
years ago, we were the first to set up a company
Leeds Innovations to help academics commercialise
their ideas, and we currently attract more industrial
funding for research than any other university in the
it all together: Pro-Vice-Chancellor for IT and communications
Professor David Hogg
new strategy is simply the glue which will bring all of
this together and promote new initiatives under one umbrella.
The government has made this a priority, and there are
funds available which can be best accessed on a corporate
wide range of activities fall under the strategy, ranging
from a ground-breaking agreement with venture capital
group Forward to provide £20m for new start-up ventures,
to government funded initiatives through the White Rose
consortium developing enterprise elements for the undergraduate
curriculum. The University has excellent resources for
the third arm vision, from its research activity, its
business school, lifelong learning through the school
of continuing education, world-wide links with universities,
and on-going relationships with business and industry.
lecturer Dr Peter Stratton is not new to the game, having
set up his company, The Psychology Business, over ten
years ago. Using a research technique pioneered in his
department, he has worked with many of the FTSE 100 providing
market research and investigating customer activity and
changes in organisational cultures.
acknowledges the difference which the third arm strategy
can make. "Theres been a major culture change
within the University over the last few years, but it
is a gradual process," he said. "We cant
just flick a switch and change overnight, but at least
were moving in the right direction by beginning
to celebrate the people who are successful in this area
Stratton is a member of the champions network
chaired by earth sciences Professor Rob Knipe. The network
allows academics with a strong track record of work with
industry to sit down with co-ordinators from companies
already forging ties with the University, to discuss ways
of promoting collaboration.
Knipes rock deformation research team has won awards
helping industry in worldwide oil exploration and production.
of my research team are salaried through industry funding,
which gives continuity to the work we carry out,"
he said. "Working with industry also opens out the
kind of research we do, as companies provide the data
often too expensive for us to collect in any other
set-up and then we analyse it and pass back the
information they require. It also speeds up research,
as companies need results in months, not the years it
takes for pure research to filter through to an industrial
professor Tony Johnson is also part of the champions network.
He has thirty years experience of working with industry
and has recently set up a spin-off company through Leeds
Innovations, Gluco Ltd, to exploit a new industrial adhesive.
a polymer chemist, most of my research is applied, and
I find that real industrial problems are often far harder
to solve than those we dream up as academics," he
said. "Money gained from commercial activity can
prove very useful as it is more flexible than the usual
grants. Applied research also provides good experience
for young researchers, because they get to see the process
from the bottom up."
key to third arm is ensuring a smooth relationship between
those outside the University with the needs to be met,
and the academics who can provide the solution or the
skills required. Many of the new initiatives facilitate
this relationship, taking away from academics the administrative
and developmental burden . Business development managers
work with departments to identify potential areas of collaboration
with industry, and an institute for corporate learning
is starting to build long-term relationships with big
companies with a view to supplying all their needs in
terms of applied research, consultancy and training. The
veteran of third arm, Leeds Innovations, hopes
to raise the number of new companies it helps establish
to ten per year, and plans to identify a further eighty
to a hundred commercial opportunities annually.
business development managers John Hulbert, Joanna Watt,
Laurence Hogg, John Slater and Alan Batby; (above
director of Leeds Innovations Angus Ferguson, and business
development managers Nicola Broughton, Lorraine Ferris
and Andrew Dundas; (left)
David Hogg acknowledges that this kind of work wont
suit everyone. "There are concerns that third arm
initiatives will place impossible extra burdens on already
hard-working academics, but if we are smart about how
we use our time, third arm can work to enhance other activities.
adds solidity to teaching as students really respond to
learning first-hand about applied research which lecturers
themselves have done.
arm has the potential to bring in additional income and
resources, as well as added stimulation and motivation.
Our aims are high, but well within our grasp to
be a national leader in knowledge transfer by 2005, maintain
and increase our lead on other higher education institutions,
and be a major source of entrepreneurial expertise, creativity,
flexible learning and general business support on a local,
regional and national level."
aims and elements of the third arm strategy are
to increase the quality and scope of applied research
to enhance the Universitys overall research capabilities,
strategic and applied research forum or champions
network brings together academics and people
working in industry who are already experienced in collaborative
projects., and aims to raise the profile of applied research.
research support unit, which offers support and
advice to staff about sources of income, financial administration,
submission of final reports and protection of the results
of their research.
to identify the full range of creative ideas within the
University, and maximise the return they produce through
licensing, consultancy, company formation and partnerships
with industry, via the work of:
Innovations, which has created thirty spin-off
companies, many licensing agreements, and has an annual
turnover of more than £6.5m
Forward Innovation fund, which has provided £20m to
support spin-off companies from University research.
development managers, who identify potential areas
for commercial opportunity, and help build links between
academics and outside organisations.
technology seedcorn fund, which has £6m to invest
in new high-tech spin-off companies arising from research
at the Leeds, Sheffield and York.
teaching company scheme, a government-funded initiative
running for 25 years, partnering companies which have
specific problems to solve to universities with the skills
and knowledge to help them. (See Noticeboard.)
White Rose Faraday
initiative, which creates links with the packaging industry
with seven projects already under way
White Rose Biotechnology Consortium, which develops
technology transfer between universities and industry,
with a £250,000 DTI grant.
developing knowledge management systems to co-ordinate
and support third arm activity
to help the development of learning commpanies/
organisations and equip people of all ages with
the work skills required to participate fully in a modern,
knowledge-based economy, through:
Institute for Corporate Learning, building close
relationships with industry and the public sector, promoting
University education, learning and staff development.
The Institute is already working with the BBC, Yorkshire
Bank, Magnet, Wakefield Council and others.
skills and employability unit, providing work placements
for students to improve their future employment prospects.
school of continuing education providing part-time
courses for people in work to develop their skills and
to create a culture of entrepreneurship at the University,
both amongst academic staff and students, through:
White Rose centre
for enterprise, improving entrepreneurial skills
amongst academics and students in science and engineering,
through teaching and learning projects and curriculum
to influence and contribute to the economic development
and regeneration of the city and the region, through:
city and regional office, working with local agencies
and companies to make practical contributions to regional
and local economic development.
Innovation Centre, providing start-up business accommodation.
Park Knowledge Economy campus, a new initiative
between developers Thorpe Park (Leeds) Ltd and the University,
providing business space with the benefit of a close and
effective relationship with the University.