Enterprise exchange

Professor Ian Oakes, Pro Vice-Chancellor Research and Enterprise, is responsible for promoting the University’s research agenda and developing knowledge transfer activities. He initially worked in the automotive industry and has held a number of senior management posts in higher education.

He joined the University of Wolverhampton last year. His research interests have included developing models of world class performance in small manufacturing companies and have focused on the role of university-business collaboration in influencing regional innovation.

The University of Wolverhampton has a successful track record in research and enterprise. How do you see these areas developing in the future?

The University of Wolverhampton has a strong regional reputation as a capable delivery organisation for Knowledge Transfer activities in the region. It is recognised as the regional leader for Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) and has been instrumental in the formulation and co-ordination of regional HEI Knowledge Transfer activities. The quality of this work has been recognised on several occasions through the Lord Stafford Awards for innovation and enterprise.

A key component of the University’s success has been the development of staff capacity, the establishment of a Business Development and Enterprise infrastructure and the appointment of Business Development Managers embedded within the Schools.

Whilst this strategy has been highly successful over the last five years, it is now necessary to review it and make appropriate changes if we are to continue to be successful in the future. In particular, it is important that the value of Enterprise and Knowledge Transfer activities is recognised and they are fully integrated with teaching and research activities.

Through this development, teaching and research activitieswill find wider value and yield greater impact.

A new Innovation and Enterprise Strategy will use the strategic elements and lessons learned in the past and amend them in light of changing circumstances in the future.

Covering the period 2010-2015, the strategy will maximise the potential of the University to become an exemplar in its engagement with business, industry and the professions. By doing so, we will create a more enterprising culture across the University, have a positive impact on industry, business and the community and create a financial surplus for the University.

What is the key to successful university business collaboration?

A University-wide business engagement model with a clear, coherent and consistent product offering in the market place with strong linkages between these activities and research and teaching within the University, generating benefit to staff, students and business partners.

How important is the University’s role in supporting and regenerating the regional economy?

Universities are considered to be a primary source of the most valuable assets in the knowledge economy, namely educated people and new ideas. They generate new knowledge, absorb knowledge created elsewhere and diffuse knowledge into the economy.

Knowledge and skills transfer between universities and business is now recognised as being strategically important to regional economies. Universities are now considered to have a role to play in fostering growth, establishing new companies, working with existing companies in applying new technologies, as well as increasing the professional and technical skills levels of the workforce.

The University of Wolverhampton is a major provider of Knowledge Transfer activities for business and the wider community both in the region and elsewhere. In addition, the University is engaged in  promoting innovation and enterprise in the Black Country, Telford and Wrekin and Shropshire.

The University also has a number of centres and institutions that provide services to individuals and businesses for high level skills development, business incubation and start-up including; a Continuing Professional Development company (i-CD Ltd), an ICT business incubator (e-Innovation Centre), a Creative Industries incubator (SP/ARK),  Student Placements  programme for Entrepreneurs in Education (SPEED) and an Institute for Innovation and Enterprise.

What do you feel are the main challenges in your area at present?

Regional and local funding streams will alter substantially in the future, partly due to the recession and partly due to changing Government priorities. The role of the Regional Development Agency is expected to change with more responsibility and funding being delivered to the local authorities. In the past, the University of Wolverhampton has been particularly successful in attracting funding, both revenue and capital, from the RDA, Advantage West Midlands (AWM) and Government Office West Midlands (GOWM).

However, there has been little engagement with local authorities. Funding from Advantage West Midlands for new developments in the future is likely to be severely restricted following public sector funding cuts with the majority of funding available being allocated to those projects already in progress.

What do you feel has been your greatest personal achievement?

I hope this is yet to come.

The University supports a number of initiatives to increase graduate employability. What key attributes give our graduates a competitive edge?

It is vital that our graduates are able to demonstrate to prospective employers that they are innovative and enterprising coupled with an ability to apply their knowledge and understanding to changing circumstances and environments.

Who do you admire and why?

I tend to admire people who have shown courage and bravery in the face of adversity. One person who always springs to mind is Mohammed Ali for his fight against racism and his courage in the boxing ring.

What are your other interests?

My leisure interests include horse riding, martial arts and keep fit.

What ambitions do you have for the future?

To help the University become even more successful and acquire the recognition we deserve for the excellent work we do.