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November 09, 2011

Research Globalisation Live Blog

Session 1: Global research alliances

Welcome to the Research Fortnight live blog, direct from our annual conference at the St Pancras Hotel in London. Speakers for the first session are Lord Bhattacharyya, chairman of Warwick Manufacturing Group, Prof Anton Muscatelli, VC of GLasgow, and Dr Syed Zahoor Hassan, from Lahore University of Management Sciences, Pakistan. The session is chaired by Prof  Kurt Deketelaere, secretary-general of the League of European Research Universities. 

Lord Bhattacharyya: British research is excellent but my message is not just 'well done, carry on'. There are 4 areas we need to look at:

1. Our research strengths do not match those of our emerging competitors, who focus increasingly in physical sciences and engineering. It's not hard to see why emerging economies should specialise in these areas, they have impact.

2. The UK needs faster growth in partnerships. While our partnerships in China are growing, they are not growing as fast as Chinese research overall.

3. Our overall R&D spend is still too low. Our low business R&D spend is a particular problem and is lower than all our comparator nations as a percentage of GDP.

4. We don't partner enough with business.

The emphasis on bibliometric measures of impact, such as citations are also a hindrance to collaborations with emerging countries such as Brazil, this is particularly as a result of the relationship between language and citation counts. We need to move away from this.

 

Prof  Anton Muscatelli: The UK's funding for HE is slightly lower than the OECD average and research funding is increasingly concentrated. So does the UK still have a comparative advantage? I argue that it does but because of collaboration. We have to collaborate in order to compete. Three of the main drivers for this are diversifying funding streams, bringing the best together and addressing global challenges.

There is a danger of seperating teaching and research in this discussion. I would argue that building research collaborations without some element of collaborative teaching is slightly dangerous. That's how to ensure a new generation of researchers.

 Dr Syed Zahoor Hassan: We are a young institution, at only 25 years old. Our experiences reflect a very different context to what we've been hearing so far today. We decided in 2005 to be a research university. From day one, we decided to have international presence at board level. Our strategy has always been to go with global benchmarks and seek global partnerships at every opportunity.

Challenges for institutions in Pakistan include difficulty in accessing data and the need to collaborate with a Western partner to access it; a lack of critical mass of researchers; and a lack of local expertise on filing patents and the cost of hiring expertise from abroad. Research collaboration deals should include support for filing patents.

Now it's time for questions from the floor.

Q. It's easy to set up campuses and collaborations but the challenge is to make them efficient. A recent BIS report shows that mobility rather than just collaboration, is effective. Researchers who have worked elsewhere are 2.5 times more productive. It's about how we collaborate.

Muscatelli: I quite agree. We have decided to channel sufficient resources into a number of strategic partnerships.

 A question from the Science and Technology Facilities Council. Could prof Muscatelli comment on pressure from multinational business and even the media.

Muscatelli: Does the media pressure you to do things or not do things. So far we haven't seen a huge amount of opposition to our work but we do choose not to occupy certain spaces, such as working with tobbacco companies.

Q. How important has Glasgow's Easy Access IP project been in easing IP problems

Muscatelli: It's early days, but has had quite a lot of traction in early cases and industry is responding postively. I was of the belief that we did unnecessarily hold collaborations back because of IP issues and so I was a big proponant of the scheme. I really hope it will make a difference because I think if we can't play our part in trying to solve the problem then we are failing in a public duty.

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