PARTNERSHIPS can transform economies. Many of the most successful global businesses are the product of successful partnerships.
In universities, collaboration is a fantastic way in which to bring together unique strengths from separate establishments to create a powerful offer.
I’m all for working across boundaries, geographic and sector, to open the door to new ideas, larger contracts and new markets. Sharing an approach helps to solve problems and compete effectively worldwide.
But it’s a big leap. It requires each side to open up, engage and share information - which goes against a lifetime of closely guarding information for many businesses and universities. However, it’s well worthwhile overcoming any cultural gap to lever funding, talent and impact.
I’m impressed with regional business partnerships such as Newcastle’s business improvement district company NE1, a world- leading BID with 1,300 business members all contributing to improve the city centre.
I’m even more proud of Wear1City, which is bringing together many of Sunderland’s city centre traders to drive forward business, visitors and the economy of central Sunderland.
The region’s two local enterprise partnerships cover much larger geographical areas, and have a broad remit, business-led with public sector involvement. They can forge collaborations that run longer, look farther ahead, invest more and help to sharpen the competitiveness of regional companies, organisations and universities.
Potential collaborations between businesses and universities are particularly interesting. Universities teem with problem solvers, and business people understand the layers of commercial realities. Partnerships between them will succeed more easily if there is a willingness – even a relish – to develop new ways of doing business.
Many large, innovative companies have built strong partnerships with universities, as my faculty has with Nissan, for example. It is the SMEs – the smaller, growing sector – that we’re keen to encourage to work with us. The benefits of doing so can have a remarkable effect.
Collaborative partnerships are refreshing and rewarding. We’re seeing some excellent examples of them thriving in the region. The energy and creativity of strong relationships between organisations will help to develop fresh routes through post-recession Britain. These could shed light on the knottiest of business problems and come up with innovative, effective solutions.
Prof Bernie Callaghan is dean of the faculty of business and law at the University of Sunderland