How do we persuade business to invest in design research?

Martyn Evans index

The most innovative industries have close links with universities, says Martyn Evans

I was at Ravensbourne University last week – I’m a member of an advisory panel for the School of Design there. The panel is made up of industry representatives from the widest range of design disciplines including fashion, graphics, digital, film and architecture. We were discussing the university’s postgraduate offer and asking, as we do every time we meet, how we might better connect its students and their work with industry and its needs. The views around the table from the different professions made me wonder how connected architecture students are to the building industry they are training to serve.

In the pharmaceutical and biotech industries, companies cannot compete unless they are intimately connected to research units at universities where masters and PhD students are studying on programmes funded by private sector R&D budgets. Knowledge is developed, new science invented and life-saving therapies discovered through research developed in partnership with industry. And it isn’t just research designed to solve problems we already know about – private sector money is also invested heavily in pure blue-sky research designed to produce answers to questions we haven’t even asked yet.

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