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Symposium: Engaging HEIs in business and the community: A learning perspective

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Tuesday 22 May 2007, 10:00 - Wednesday 23 May 2007, 13:00


Across universities much outreach work is taking place, engaging organisations typically SMEs and community groups in different forms of third mission activity. The building of networks (e.g. through e-learning or IT support), and involvement with think tanks and government agencies supports this work, which draws on university-based expertise and research to build capacity and social networks and to transfer knowledge at a regional (and sometimes national and international) level. Given the growing debates around the nature of the knowledge-based economy and the role of universities within it, we suggest that it is timely to explore and debate the role and purpose of such activities, particularly in terms of (1) the nature and process of knowledge transfer, (2) the utilisation of social and intellectual capital and the development of social networks, and (3) the evaluation and benchmarking of outreach activity.

Purpose and aims

The purpose of this symposium is to explore how we, as academics engaged in the design and delivery of outreach activity, can frame this work theoretically and incorporate it into our academic research.

We suggest that a useful starting point is the focus on what two-way learning processes (so that outreach informs research and research informs outreach) are taking place through university engagement with third mission activity. In particular, we suggest that taking Knowledge Transfer, Social Networks and Evaluation as a starting point for studying and understanding these relationships within the third mission context. It will not only help to improve our understanding of the scope and success of third mission activity but also enhance our understanding of the nature of these three learning processes and their transferability to other contexts. The symposium is therefore intended to be a dialogue of disciplines and a means of identifying forms of collaboration across disciplines and projects.

This two-day symposium therefore aims to provide a forum through presentation of papers and discussion in which to:

  • share ideas and theories from regional, national and international third mission activity;
  • find ways of combining these with theoretical perspectives to produce publishable work.

Symposium themes

Three main areas have been identified

a) Knowledge transfer

We take knowledge transfer to mean the two-way transfer of ideas, research results, expertise or skills between one party and another that enables the creation of new knowledge and its use in the development of innovative new products, processes and/or services, and in the development and implementation of public policy. (RCUK 2006) There are imperatives for more knowledge transfer activity between UK business and HEIs. For example, the UK’s Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Innovation Report (DTI 2003) titled: ‘Competing in the Global Economy: the Innovation Challenge’ sums up the government’s perspective on the relationship between knowledge, the UK economy and globalised economic competition between states (‘a fiercely competitive global economy’, DTI 2003:16), in which the UK is believed to suffer a ‘productivity gap’ in comparison with its key competitors (France, Germany, the USA). Drawing on Porter and Ketels (2003), this DTI report recommends the involvement of universities and industry in the ‘successful exploitation of new ideas’, so that the UK becomes a ‘key knowledge hub’ with the creation of an ‘innovation economy’.

b) Social networks/social capital

We take social capital to mean the networks a person can draw on as a resource and which are significant in getting on and getting by both professionally and personally (Bourdieu 1986). Creating and maintaining high quality mutually supporting networks is difficult, particularly for small businesses. We suggest that one of the aims of third mission outreach should be not only to create networks between universities and business but also, through bringing people together involved in the same project or activity, help to create peer networks.

c) Evaluation

We take evaluation to refer to both summative and formative evaluation of outreach activity. There is a concern that much of this activity, especially that sponsored by public funding bodies, is evaluated primarily in terms of hard outcomes (for example jobs and sales) and that the social elements developed and capacity built up within and between institutions is not fully captured or appreciated in formal evaluation. Projects such as UPBEAT, sponsored by HEFCE, the Council for Industry and Higher Education (CIHE) and the EPSRC, have been instigated as a response to such concerns. How then could we use this model and other models in a formative manner as a tool to  project manage and shape outreach activities to meet the real needs of all those involved in third mission activitie

There will be a number of outcomes of this workshop which will strengthen collaboration between faculties, departments and research communities and lead to tangible research and publication outputs.

The immediate outcomes will be the sharing of knowledge, the identification of synergies and the forging of and building on collaborative links between faculties, disciplines, departments both at Lancaster and beyond.

Further information about the event can be obtained from James Westbrook, Event Coordinator, on 01524 510717


1st Day Tuesday 22nd May

09.30   Arrival, Tea & Coffee, Registration

10.00   1st Session

Charlotte Carey
‘Networks, people and sharing; a case study of cross- university collaboration in supporting enterprise and     entrepreneurship education’
David Birchall
‘Engaging SMEs through development programmes based on virtual action learning’
Fiona Whitehurst
‘Reach-in and reach-out: the story of MSc in pipeline engineering at Newcastle University’
Dorothy Macfarlane
‘Developing Mode 2 University Professionals - Organisational learning through a staff development programme’

11.30   Break

11.45   2nd Session

Corina Sas
‘Engaging higher educations institutions in regional development: A case study for Human computer interaction discipline’
Sally Fowler Davis
‘Knowledge Transfer and exchange: capacity building in a small university’
Moira Decter
‘University to business technology transfer - a UK-USA Comparative Review’
David Birchall
The impact of relationships between academics in university start-ups and the home institution

01.15   Lunch

02.00   3rd Session

Richard Bolden, Jackie Bagnall,                                                                  ‘Developing Regional Leadership Capacity: Lessons from Leadership South West’ 
Tim Hughes
‘The Effectiveness of Knowledge Networks: An Investigation of Manufacturing SMEs’
Phil Rose
‘Social Capital: how do BME led/owned enterprises build social networks’
Liang Han, Alan Benson
‘Bankers as external professional advisors’

03.30   Break

03.45   4th Session

Oswald Jones
‘Entrepreneurial Ventures in Higher Education Analysing Business Growth’
Stephen Perkins, Mhinder Bhopal
Title TBC
Samina Khan
‘Upbeat Case Study’
Michael Wei Zhang
‘Project Evaluation as a process of learning: Theory and practice’

05.15   Break

05.30   5th Session

Nigel Lockett, Sarah Robinson
‘Examining Knowledge Transfer in Action: InfoLab21 – a Case Study’
Ellie Hamilton, Jing Zhang
‘Building an effective learning community for SME business owners in university entrepreneurship education’

06.15   Drinks

06.30   Dinner

2nd Day Wednesday 23rd May

09.00   Tea/Coffee

09.15   6th Session

James Powell
‘Creative universities and their creative outreach to their creative city: regions’
James Johnston, Gerry Black
‘Much to Learn Much to Teach’
Dilani Jayawarna, Julia Rouse
‘The role of HE institutions in fostering entrepreneurship: NEW experience’
Gordon Clark
‘Students as transferors of knowledge: Predicting success and enhancing employability’

10.45   Break

11.00   7th Session

Isobel Nicholson, Katie Taylor
‘An Agile Approach to Knowledge Transfer’
Marion Royer
‘The work of the centre for micro enterprise’
John Sparrow, Krystyna Tarkowski
‘Evolving knowledge integration and absoprtive capacity perspectives on university-industry interaction within a    university’
Sue Peters
‘Research informing outreach informing research: The case of LEAD’

12.30   Round Up

01.00   Lunch (or packed lunch)


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