Skidmore to chair inquiry on university knowledge exchange and ‘levelling-up’

The former universities minister adds to his growing portfolio of higher education roles from the backbenches

Former universities minister Chris Skidmore will chair an inquiry into university research, regional inequalities and ‘levelling-up’.

The independent Higher Education Commission, which is administered by the Policy Connect thinktank, will oversee the work of the inquiry.

The inquiry will produce a final report that will offer policy recommendations on how the targeted increase in research and development funding can reduce regional inequality. The report will distil how research funding could be used by universities to contribute to the government’s levelling-up agenda, which seeks to stimulate sustainable, long-term economic growth in deindustrialised regions of the country.

The inquiry will convene on 25th November to establish the scope of its work.

The intellectual property (IP) developed by university researchers can launch independent business ventures, known as ‘spin-out’ companies. The University of Cambridge sits at the heart of the Silicon Fen and its research and innovations contribute directly to the county’s developing technology and pharmaceutical sectors. The university’s Cambridge Enterprise team helps staff and students “use commercial avenues to develop their ideas and expertise for the benefit of society, the economy, themselves and the university”.

Many universities use similar methods to develop commercial potential for IP, but policy experts believe that, by aligning research funding with Local Industrial Strategies, university knowledge exchange can advantage local communities and improve regional disparities. The inquiry will also consider how university research infrastructure could be shared with local businesses.

The chairmanship adds to the Skidmore’s growing portfolio of higher education roles, after he was appointed earlier this year to advise the UPP Foundation on its civic university work.

Skidmore said: “I’m really looking forward to co-chairing this important Higher Education Commission inquiry. It has never been more important to tackle regional inequalities in economic performance, innovation and productivity, as we face the challenges presented by the pandemic and work to build back better.

“We must come together as a nation to support our local economies, levelling up all areas of the UK and ensuring that no one is left behind. The higher education sector has a key role to play in this, and I look forward to working with universities to think strategically about their use of research funding, and further establish their role as anchor institutions in their local areas.”

Image credit: ©Barbara Evripidou

Read more: Interview: Chris Skidmore, former universities minister

Related news: Cities and universities team up on plan for economic recovery

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