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UK university links with industry abroad – under threat?

2 March 2017

A new working paper from the UCL Institute of Education (IOE) argues that UK research-intensive universities have become increasingly ‘enterprising’ and university-industry interactions are now an important feature of the UK higher education system.

The research, conducted by academics at the IOE’s Centre for Global Higher Education (CGHE), measures the relationship between UK universities and industry within the UK, European Union and elsewhere. The authors highlight the extent of the negative impact that Brexit is likely to have upon UK universities.

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Using empirical data, Professor Robert Tijssen and his co-authors analyse university-industry research collaboration links and cross-sectoral mobility patterns within 47 large UK universities between 2009 and 2015.

They look specifically at university-industry co-authored publications and university-industry ‘crossover’ researchers – individuals affiliated with both academia and industry.

Their findings show that UK research collaboration linkages and staff mobility relationships involve large numbers of partner companies located abroad and that there are hundreds of active researchers straddling and moving between UK universities and the corporate world.

The results also reveal the importance of European industry to UK universities: research-active companies located in EU member states represent 24 per cent of these UK academic-industry connections.

The authors conclude that the effects of Brexit could be damaging to large UK universities, as these are very heavily intertwined with European industry. There is a risk that Brexit, by diminishing or severing these links, will have harmful consequences for the future sustainability of the UK’s university-industry research and development.

Professor Tijssen and Dr Yegros presented the findings from this paper at CGHE’s annual conference on 1 March 2017 in London.

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