Collaboration key to world-class innovation

Developing collaborative partnerships between business and the higher education sector will boost levels of innovation and position Northern Ireland more competitively in global markets, according to Invest Northern Ireland’s Tracy Meharg.

Ms Meharg was speaking at the Working Together For Profit seminar held in Belfast today as part of Invest NI’s Innovation Week 2007. Held in partnership with the Institute of Directors, Queen’s University, University of Ulster and the Association of Northern Ireland Colleges (ANIC), the event showcased success stories that have resulted from partnerships between businesses and the higher education sector.

“Countries that will prosper in the future will be those that can think creatively and embrace continuous improvement; those that can compete on intellectual strength and high technology,” said Ms Meharg.  “Our universities and colleges are a key source of knowledge so it is vital that the education sector and businesses continue to work in partnership to help create and maintain a world-class economy.

“Innovation Week 2007 aims to help companies realise that innovation is a necessity for successful business in the modern global marketplace. I hope today’s event strengthens existing business and education partnerships and stimulates further collaboration.”

Ed Vernon, Invest NI board member and a committee member of the Northern Ireland Institute of Directors, was a guest speaker at the Working Together For Profit seminar. He added: “The Institute of Directors is concerned that SMEs are not taking advantage of the potential for technology transfer and innovation. We hope that today’s event will motivate business leaders to work more closely with academia, build more profitable businesses and ultimately contribute to a stronger Northern Ireland economy.”

A series of case studies was featured at the Working Together For Profit event which focused on priority industry sectors including: agri-food; life and health sciences; software; engineering and construction.

Delegates discovered how these various industry sectors have built relationships with universities and colleges, and completed R&D projects to successfully differentiate their products through innovation.

Innovation Week continues tomorrow with a National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) event focusing on ‘Young People and the Future of Work’, which will be of particular interest to those in the education sector.