Universities and business schools - never traditional partners - are breaking the mould and linking up
13 April 2006
When one of Britain's best universities and its top business school get together you have to sit up and take notice.
Business schools and universities tend to keep their distance from each other, but over the past couple of years both institutions have begun to recognise that it is in their best interests to get more involved. …
"It's a fantastic collaboration," says Professor Malcolm Grant, President and Provost of UCL, who sits on the LBS's governing body. "We don't have a business school and the London Business School benefits from having a broader institutional partner. This is a tremendously important part of the development of what business schools are for. In London we're taking some very interesting steps indeed."
The UCL-LBS partnership began in 2000, when the Centre for Scientific Enterprise Ltd (CESL), an independent company, was set up by UCL and the LBS, with government funds as part of the Science Enterprise Challenge to promote science entrepreneurship. "I'm very wary of big-bang initiatives," says Professor Grant. "I'm much happier about the way that this is going, incrementally."
At the moment nearly a hundred UCL postgrads take courses at the LBS and a handful of LBS MBAs are going the other way. The UCL runs the Centre for Enterprise & the Management of Innovation in partnership with the LBS. A new department is being set up at UCL, for technology management and innovation, where research will be done in collaboration with LBS students. And a joint Masters in technology and business is in the pipeline, to start in 2007.
At the centre of all this is Steve Currall, an American academic appointed professor of entrepreneurship at UCL and the LBS last autumn. "It's a match made in heaven," he says. "Postgrad students at UCL get access to world-class business education without UCL having to launch a business school. And LBS students get connectivity to technological innovations, which can be a basis for new-technology start-up firms." …
This is not the first time that Professor Currall has brought technology and management students together. In 2005 he won an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award after setting up the Rice Alliance for Technology & Entrepreneurship at Rice University, in the US, that partnered the management, technology and natural sciences faculties.
It has been a huge success. From its foundation in 1999 until Professor Currall left last year, the Rice Alliance helped to launch more than 160 new-technology start-ups, raising more than $300m (£172m) in equity capital.
Some entrepreneurial saplings are already beginning to bloom in London from the UCL-LBS collaboration. "It's brilliant that they do this," says Professor Bernard Buxton, Dean of the UCL Faculty of Engineering Sciences. "It's an essential part of our job that research has a route into the wider world."
One beneficiary of the UCL-LBS relationship and its focus on entrepreneurship has been Siavash Mahdavi, an EngD graduate from UCL who was looking at material structures.
Mahdavi's research allows designers to combine materials in a much more detailed way than they have been able to before, so they can have very strong, heavy material at certain points and very light, less strong material at others.
One of Mahdavi's LBS electives was in new-technology ventures, where he wrote a feasibility study on using this micro-structure technology in customised football boots that give players the best possible performance. Mahdavi now runs a company partly owned by UCL, Complex Matters, commercially developing his research. Last week, with Prior 2 Lever, he launched the football boots on to the market. …
The main focus of the UCL-LBS collaboration is on entrepreneurial work such as Mahdavi's. But there are other offshoots too. Steffie Broer, 31, is a first year EngD student at UCL, sponsored by a sustainable energy consultancy. "I'm not really interested in making millions," she says. "I'm interested in saving the world, by delivering green solutions. But whatever you want to do, you need commercial skills."
Now Broer is in a position to advise households that want to go green by setting up a sustainable energy resource, such as a wind turbine, together. …
Nick Jackson, 'The Independent'