Vice Provost View: UCL’s unique opportunity to shape the new reality
11 August 2020
Dr Celia Caulcott, Vice-Provost (Enterprise), reflects on the central role of universities in working alongside their partners to drive the economic and societal recovery that we all want to see.
Almost five months ago UCL asked many of us to work from home, just ahead of the government telling us to ‘stay safe, protect the NHS, save lives’. We all understood how important it was to play our part in supporting the NHS as it did its vital job of caring for people with COVID-19. Indeed, many UCL staff and colleagues worked tirelessly for the NHS on the frontline. Others mobilised research and innovation projects at great speed, such as the team behind the UCL Ventura breathing aid for COVID-19 patients, now being used in over 40 NHS hospitals with 105 countries around the world requesting the free designs. Many more of us have also worked to maintain essential services during this time.
What was less obvious was the scale of economic, educational and societal damage that would come this national response. Job cuts, children and young people losing months of education, the stark exposure and exacerbation of many inequalities within our society, whole swathes of our economy, hospitality, tourism, the creative sector, air travel to name but a few, likely to be affected for years to come.
I have been in meetings recently discussing many elements of these immense challenges with major national bodies including the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Bank of England, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), which has just published the UK R&D Roadmap. A recurrent theme from all of these interactions is the importance of universities in the recovery that we all want to see: important in the partnerships we build; our contribution to the places we are based; and to the translation of ideas into innovative solutions.