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University and Business Partnerships Key To Success

Collaboration between academia and business will be critical to the reconstruction and rebalancing of the Northern Ireland economy, a senior civil servant claimed today.

David Sterling, Permanent Secretary of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment told staff and students at the University of Ulster’s Jordanstown campus his officials were focusing on innovation and knowledge transfer partnerships between companies and academics.

"Innovation is the key driver of productivity and is fundamental to rebuilding and rebalancing our economy,” Mr Sterling said while visiting an event hosted by the University’s Ulster Business School and Office of Innovation.

“The Department is making significant investments to encourage more innovation between business and academia through programmes such as Invest Northern Ireland’s Competence Centres, which help groups of companies and academics to conduct collaborative research and development.

“Innovation Vouchers and Knowledge Transfer Partnerships are available to help businesses obtain the expertise they need from colleges and universities, while the expansion of Invest NI’s Collaborative Network Programme will also help our companies to compete in global markets.”

Professor Marie McHugh, Dean of the Ulster Business School, said: "In the Ulster Business School we are committed to working collaboratively with businesses to help them to become more innovative and creative through our portfolio of programmes and also engagement with Innovation Vouchers, KTP’s and more recent developments such as Collaborative Networks.

“David has provided us with rich insights into current and future policy initiatives to support innovation. We welcome the fact that they support Research and Development but also wider innovation in the form of product, processes and practices across all parts of the economy.”

This focus is central to the School's MSc in Business Development and Innovation according to Course Director Dr Adele Dunn.

She said: "For businesses large and small unlocking the potential of innovation in all its guises can be a considerable challenge and quick fix solutions often paint an incomplete picture.   

"Our experience with business managers studying our course is that the real value of the programme is in its ability to empower those in businesses to look holistically at innovation and how it can create and capture value in their business context.  Increasingly, this value is created through collaboration and connectivity with the University and other businesses."  

Timothy Brundle, Director of Innovation at Ulster, said: “Northern Ireland alongside regional economies across the world face big challenges. It is a great pleasure to host the architect of the Northern Ireland economic development strategy at the University today. The University is committed to supporting David Sterling’s Department in the repositioning of the economic fortunes of Northern Ireland.”

Caption: (left to right) The University of Ulster's Dr Adele Dunn, DETI Permanent Secretary, David Stirling and Professor Marie McHugh, Dean of the Ulster Business School.