4 ways universities are driving innovation

4 ways universities are driving innovation


The digital revolution is not only here, it is accelerating every day. Advances in automation, the digitisation of information, unprecedented access to data and the democratisation of knowledge are transforming every sector of our economy – from healthcare to transportation to energy and beyond. The scope, scale, and ubiquity of these disruptions is truly unprecedented.

Fostering entrepreneurship

As the pace of discovery accelerates and global competition intensifies, universities are embracing entrepreneurship as part of the academic experience, creating cultures where innovative thinking is inspired and nurtured. As of 2017, more than 200 colleges and universities have launched centres dedicated for innovation or entrepreneurship as members of the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centres.

At a time when societal challenges are demanding discoveries at the intersections of diverse disciplines, fostering a culture of entrepreneurship is one of the most powerful ways that universities act as economic accelerators.

Encouraging collaboration with the private sector

In today’s competitive environment, universities must also develop new partnerships with leading companies, foundations, and other research-intensive institutions. These partnerships are not just about transferring knowledge from lab to practice. They provide critical funding for talented faculty and students to pursue foundational research, enable students and faculty to exchange ideas with the very best minds inside and outside the academy, and perhaps most importantly, help to prepare students to be citizens of a rapidly changing world.

Corporations are recognising the high-value, high-return offered by these collaborations. According to data compiled by the National Science Foundation for the US, industry funding for university research and development has grown by more than 5.5% per year on average over the past 10 years, from about $2.4 billion in 2006 to more than $4.2 billion in 2016.

Even after adjusting for inflation, this funding has grown at roughly 4% per year, from about $2.5 billion in 2006 to about $3.8 billion in 2016 (denominated in 2009 dollars).

Promoting diversity and inclusion

Successful university spin-offs and corporate partnerships don’t tell the full story. As this economic transformation quickens, it is critical that universities continue to focus on incorporating diverse perspectives into our work.

In the US, expanding the opportunity for diverse voices, especially in STEM-related jobs is not just the right move – it is necessary to meet the economic demand posed by our tech-driven economy. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects STEM occupations to grow by about 8.9% from 2014 to 2024, compared to 6.4% growth for non-STEM occupations. Most of those jobs will be in computing-related disciplines – about 55%. Data also tells us that more than two-thirds of those jobs could go unfilled due to the insufficient pool of college graduates with computing-related degrees.

By not expanding the pool of job-seekers, we risk falling short of the growing demand, with serious consequences for the future of technical innovation.

Exploring the nexus of technology and society

There is no guarantee, of course, that technology will automatically benefit humanity. Here, perhaps, lies the greatest obligation for institutions of higher education in the digital revolution. It is up to us to provide the ethicists, artists, and philosophers who can point the way; the policy experts and economists who can draw the map; and the cognitive scientists and sociologists who help ensure the destination is designed for people as well as machines. And it is up to us to make sure these scholars are working side-by-side with the applied researchers and technologists who are driving the revolution.

US labour markets have evidenced an impressive ability to absorb staggering changes in technology – but not without a troubling increase in inequality among our citizens. The graph below breaks down wage trends over time by education level, with a growing gap in earnings between the best educated and the least educated over time. While the American Dream still works for some, our less educated citizens have seen their real incomes fall since the early 1970s. The best labour economists predict that the next wave of disruptive innovation will continue to exacerbate this inequality.

Source By: World Economic Forum
Photo by Phi Hùng Nguyễn on Unsplash

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