Calls for ‘golden triangle’ to boost economy

Universities, government and business must work together to drive economic growth and social wellbeing, urged speakers at a University of Bath event

A ‘golden triangle’ of universities, government and business should collaborate to drive economic growth and social wellbeing, said speakers at a gathering at the University of Bath.

Chaired by Professor Veronica Hope Hailey, Dean of the School of Management and Vice-President of Corporate Engagement, the event brought together keynote speakers and panellists from the three sectors to share understanding of how working in partnership can support the South West’s ‘powerhouse’ agenda. There was also discussion of how to maximise the Industrial Strategy to boost productivity and earning power across the UK, and help bring social benefits.

The event was opened by Professor Jens Roehrich, Director of the HPC Supply Chain Innovation Lab. He introduced Ken Owen, Supply Chain Director of EDF Energy’s Hinkley Point C (HPC), to showcase how the company is working with government internationally, nationally and regionally – as well as the University of Bath – to create a lasting legacy of social and economic benefits for the South West and the UK.

EDF Energy says it has developed a new way of bringing local small and medium-sized businesses into its supply chain, thanks to support from regional government. Researchers in the University of Bath’s HPC Supply Chain Innovation Lab is set to provide insight into this approach, benefitting policymaking and large-scale capital projects of the future.

Professor Per Holten-Andersen, President of Copenhagen Business School, discussed a research project drawing on 50 years’ worth of data from the Statistics Denmark digital registration system for all Danish citizens, showing that publicly funded Higher Education is providing good value for money in the country. Looking at more than 17,000 firms, those with the highest growth and innovation employed the greatest number of graduates, with productivity closely linked to university collaborations.

A panel discussion brought together George McFarlane, Sector Development Director at the CBI; West of England Mayor, Tim Bowles; Derek Allen, Innovation Lead, Energy Clean Growth and Infrastructure at Innovate UK; Matthew Kirk, International Affairs Adviser at global law firm Squire Patton Boggs; and Professor Beverly Tyler, from North Carolina State University. Topics discussed included the role of regional government in understanding local needs and strengths, funding from central government, and lessons from overseas.

Tim Bowles said: “Regional government is best placed to ensure that our skills provision, our business support and our infrastructure are designed in the right way to meet challenges. The ‘golden triangle’ is vital to us and is the whole ethos of our Local Enterprise Partnerships. As regional government we have a chance to do things differently: to work a lot closer with business, with our skills providers, with our innovators and researchers, so that we are constantly looking at what the future is going to look like.”

George McFarlane, from the CBI, said the need for the ‘golden triangle’ was stronger than ever, due to three big economic challenges facing the UK: intensifying global competition; disruption from technology; and the challenge of 9 out of 10 UK cities performing below the European average when it comes to productivity.

He outlined the opportunities around skills development, innovation and management practices, saying: “We cannot realise these opportunities without collaboration between the three points of the ‘golden triangle’. Business brings the real world experience, the consumer focus and the supply chain that can really help drive change across the economy; universities bring the world-leading science-based teaching and international research to help drive us forward; and government brings the leadership, policy framework and strategy to give the long-term confidence to invest and drive change.”  

Professor Veronica Hope Hailey said: “The ‘golden triangle’ is one of the most critical debates that UK Plc can have. We have some of the world’s best universities and offer an environment that is good for businesses to work in. This is not a theoretical debate, it is a live issue that will be increasingly urgent in a post-Brexit world. But this debate is broader than just an economic one – by harnessing the power of business and policy, underpinned by rigorous academic research, this model will benefit wider society as a whole.”