Industry and Academia: A Powerful Partnership

Dr Fiona Heatlie, Head of Knowledge Exchange at the University of Glasgow, details some of the pioneering partnerships taking place between the University and industry and the importance of collaboration.

A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to snag an invitation to Commemoration Day, the glittering jewel in the annual University of Glasgow calendar, when we celebrate the University’s birthday (a sprightly 566 years young this year, if you’re counting). For all of us who labour to do the business of research, development, innovation and enterprise – with all of its risks and challenges – we need these moments, to raise our gaze, and be reinvigorated by our surroundings, and the inspiring people who inhabit them.

Commemoration Day is utterly uplifting. Not only for the soaring architecture, the sublime choir, the flashy costumes, and the Latin addresses (delivered so charmingly in our Chaplain’s beautiful Rutherglen accent), but for the stories of creativity, energy, and drive that we enjoy as we hear about the life’s work of our honorary graduates.

This year, amongst the 15 honorary graduates, we celebrated John Shaw; a Glaswegian world-changer, who, after a long career with Coats, is now Vice Chairman of India’s largest biopharmaceutical company, Biocon Limited. During his visit to the University, he and his wife, Biocon’s managing director Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, also signed a Memorandum of Understanding to advance collaboration and partnership between the company and the University, utilising our research to meet Biocon’s goal to ensure a global right to healthcare by addressing the worldwide need for safe, effective and affordable biotherapeutics.

The University of Glasgow’s assets – our latest research advances, our unique facilities, and our talented staff and students – are open to our local innovators and entrepreneurs too. Robert Calderwood, the former Chief Executive of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, who originally joined the NHS as an Administrative Trainee with Argyll and Clyde Health Board in May 1974, and another of our honorary graduates, was instrumental in creating the new Clinical Innovation Zone at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital campus (the largest acute medical facility in Western Europe); the Zone provides 22,000 square feet of high specification units designed to foster open innovation and access to world-leading clinical academics, and outstanding clinical research facilities.   

I was lucky enough to be sitting in the audience with Andy O’Hare, whose partnership with David Capperauld, SP Sourcing, is pioneering truly innovative approaches to global sourcing and ethical supply chain management with some of the biggest names in UK retail; two Scottish entrepreneurs, with global reach, changing the world one retail supply chain at a time. As SP Sourcing and the University of Glasgow begin our journey of collaboration together, we do so now with many glittering Glaswegian exemplars of entrepreneurship and innovation to spur us on.

So as we get back to the nitty-gritty, let us do so in the knowledge that you, Scotland’s entrepreneurs, are part of something special; the be-gowned honorary graduates of the future are amongst your number. We can look forward together to September’s Venturefest as our next opportunity to raise our gaze, and revel in our collective success, but probably minus the Latin….

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