Research and innovation are the engines for growth across the UK, Professor Dame Ann Dowling OM DBE FREng FRS, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, told an audience at City, University of London last night when she delivered the first Sir Richard Olver lecture. The lecture is supported by BAE Systems, where Sir Richard was Chairman for 10 years up until 2014.

Exploring the government's proposals for industrial strategy, Dame Ann drew on the findings of a review that she had chaired in 2015 into business-university research collaborations and outlined ways in which large and small businesses and academic ecosystems can form closer, more productive relationships.

Analysis of impact case studies from the Research Excellence Framework had highlighted the importance of university research in delivering demonstrable economic returns. However, the Review also discovered inefficiencies – for example, in many cases, a single university could have several different interactions with one company, but the connection could be made by different parts of the university – meaning that opportunities to develop long-term strategic partnerships with industry could be missed.

In order for business-academia research collaboration to reinforce industrial strategy, she emphasised that the recommendations of her 2015 Dowling Review would need to be delivered. These included reducing complexities; building strong relationships; connecting potential partners where there may be mutual benefit; growing critical mass; agreeing suitable terms of engagement and ensuring that research and innovation are fully integrated into industrial and sectoral strategies and that universities are considered as core partners in the development and delivery of industrial and sectorial strategies.

Dame Ann identified three broad criteria for the success of the industrial strategy: it needs to be a whole-government undertaking, designed and implemented as a system; it must be long-term and sustained beyond the current parliamentary cycle; and it must exploit the opportunities offered by leaving the EU while mitigating risks.

Dame Ann also described the work of the Academy’s Enterprise Hub, which provides grants and critical expert mentoring by Academy Fellows to budding entrepreneurs. In addition, she noted the importance of encouraging more people to acquire STEM skills, and described some of the work of the Academy to encourage more young people from a range of backgrounds to take up an engineering career.

Notes for editors

  1. Professor Dame Ann Dowling OM DBE FREng FRS is President of the Royal Academy of Engineering. She is a Deputy Vice Chancellor and Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Cambridge.
  2. Sir Richard Olver FREng. After graduating with a first class honours degree from City University, Sir Richard spent 30 years working with BP where he served as Deputy Group Chief Executive from 2003 and Chief Executive Exploration and Production from 1998. Sir Richard joined BAE systems in 1994 and served as Chairman between 2004 to 2014. He was knighted in 2013 for his contribution to business and to UK corporate governance. Sir Richard is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and was awarded the Academy’s highly prestigious President’s Medal in 2015 for his achievements, particularly in promoting engineering education as chair of the Education for Engineering (E4E) Policy alliance.
  3. City, University of London. City University is an independent member institution of the University of London. Established by Royal Charter in 1836, the University of London consists of 18 independent member institutions with outstanding global reputations and several prestigious central academic bodies and activities.
  4. Royal Academy of Engineering. As the UK’s national academy for engineering, we bring together the most successful and talented engineers for a shared purpose: to advance and promote excellence in engineering. We provide analysis and policy support to promote the UK’s role as a great place to do business. We take a lead on engineering education and we invest in the UK’s world-class research base to underpin innovation. We work to improve public awareness and understanding of engineering. We are a national academy with a global outlook.

    We have four strategic challenges:
    - Make the UK the leading nation for engineering innovation
    - Address the engineering skills crisis
    - Position engineering at the heart of society
    - Lead the profession

For more information, please contact:

Tim Dowling at the Royal Academy of Engineering

T: 020 7766 0671
E: Tim Dowling