A delegation from the University of Cambridge jets out to India this weekend to explore potential technology and entrepreneurship collaborations.And the mission will be just the start of a major commercial push internationally based on Cambridge brainpower, the university’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz has pledged.
In a rousing welcome to the European Entrepreneurship Colloquium at Judge Business School, Sir Leszek said that leveraging Cambridge University IP globally could help haul the UK out of recession.
It could also act as an international outreach paradigm based on commercialising IP for other universities around the world, he believed.
The university had a duty to exploit its scientific and technological discoveries as aggressively as possible – not just to boost the economy but to fulfil its own mission statement that pledges to use its knowledge to benefit society, he said.
While Cambridge’s priority would always be to educate, Sir Leszek warned that the Higher Education funding model – not just in the UK but elsewhere worldwide – was not sustainable.
It was therefore critical to the future welfare of universities to encourage entrepreneurship, commercialise their IP as much as possible and engage with external science & technology companies in their local science & technology clusters.
Sir Leszek said he had been spending a lot of time in California studying trends and honing Cambridge’s own strategy for commercialising its IP and felt comfortable with its model.
Professor Shai Vyakarnam, director of the Judge’s Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning (CfEL), disclosed that he and Tony Raven – CEO of Cambridge Enterprise – the university’s commercialistion arm – were flying to India at the weekend to begin evangelising what Cambridge IP had to offer the sub-Continent.
Sir Leszek agreed that the Indian opportunity was potentially enormous and felt that an international strategy was exactly right for Cambridge. “You won’t see Harvard drilling down its commercial outreach just to Boston. It will engage with the world. I owe it to Cambridge to do the same.
“When you look at the companies we have attracted here – like Microsoft and GSK – you can argue that they are lured by good access to talented graduates. But the university and Cambridge also benefit.
“People ask me if the university is driving the Cambridge Phenomenon. I say, ‘no it isn’t – but we’re having a lovely ride.’
“I am well aware that some Californian universities are saying that the emphasis should be on more education and less entrepreneurship but if anything I would like to see our enterprising students and faculty pushing their innovation even further – beyond grant stage and into proof of concept. There is nothing wrong in having a commercial outlook.”
By the same token, Sir Leszek reiterated his promise that Cambridge University would continue to push its science based on human embryos –despite the European Court of Justice blackballing patents for such research in a controversial ruling last October.
He said Cambridge would pursue opportunities “in every country where this is legal.” That included the UK – India as well as it happens – and even the US and China.
Sir Leszek said the potential fruits of therapeutic discovery were too important to be blocked by politicians and legislators. He urged a less restrictive approach to academic scientific research generally from politicians across Europe.