BIG ideas link higher education with enterprise at key business summit

Trailblazers in business, higher education and local government from across South London came together at Kingston University to share insights on the benefits of working in partnership.

The event on 29 November was run by BIG (Business, Innovation & Growth) South London – a consortium that brings together the knowledge, expertise and facilities of 14 higher and further education providers to benefit their communities.

Delegates had the opportunity to learn about the breadth of projects already taking place across South London to support economic growth and recovery.

A packed programme of guest speakers and workshops included a panel session on the role higher education plays in creating thriving communities, chaired by Kingston University’s Pro Vice-Chancellor for Knowledge Exchange and Innovation, Dr Martin Davies.

He urged business leaders to make the most of opportunities to access the wealth of knowledge, ideas and student talent on their doorstep at higher education institutions.

“Universities are a centre for research, but also a place where knowledge is exchanged and students are given the opportunity to absorb that knowledge and go out into the wider world, taking that exploration and learning with them,” Dr Davies said.

“Creating strong links with businesses is important so they can tap in to our cutting-edge research, knowledge exchange, funding and student talent to help their organisations succeed in a challenging economic climate.”

The panel explored how innovation could drive social change and economic improvement in London boroughs.

Dr Diana Beech, the chief executive of London Higher which represents 50 higher education providers across the capital, said those institutions were embedded in their local communities and gave back through a wide variety of projects.

“They are all doing fantastic teaching and research, but other activities are also conscious attempts to help local communities – from sustainability projects to legal support,” she said.

Dr Beech also emphasised the importance of enterprise activities for students – an area Kingston University is well known for spearheading as the number one higher education institute for graduate start-ups in the United Kingdom.

“Embedding enterprise and entrepreneurship in courses is key to creating not only people who will empower companies in the future, but people who will start their own companies,” she said.

Provost Professor Helen Laville said staging the event in Kingston University’s multi-award-winning Town House building represented the ambition of the University and the importance it placed on a strong sense of shared community.

“A shared community is the minimum you need to build an eco-system, but at the heart of an innovation ecosystem is interdependence. Town House celebrates our interdependency and brings us together to let us look at things in different ways – and that is what we hope to bring when working alongside our partners in the Big South London Innovation ecosystem,” she said.