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Helping to bridge the academic-industry gap

16 October, 2020

A recent online conference organised by Gambica has highlighted the need to bridge the gap between universities and industry. Nikesh Mistry*, Gambica’s sector head for industrial automation, reports on some of the ideas that emerged from the event, and on plans to help narrow the gap.

How do we ensure that our future workforce is fit for purpose? I’m certain this is a recurring question across industry, especially in the current climate. As uncertainty increases about the future of our economy, it is imperative that we upskill our workforce to ensure we have a future generation able to cope with the tumultuous times ahead.

While there are many ways this can be achieved, we at Gambica feel that focussing on our universities and students is the best place to start. At present, there is a large gap between industry and academia which, if not bridged, could cause problems for the future of UK manufacturing.

The Covid-19 pandemic, while devastating, can also be described as a catalyst for many things, from increased levels of hygiene worldwide and the requirement for remote working, to an amplified need for industrial digital technologies that allow remote assistance and maintenance.

Last month, Gambica held its first online conference on collaboration between universities and industry. We reached out to representatives of UK academic institutions to participate in a conference which looked at how Gambica could assist in achieving such collaboration, and how a trade body like ours could help to narrow the gap between industry and academia. It proved to be a very successful event, with more than 15 academic institutions being represented.

We explored the methods and practices that Gambica could use to deliver value to students, university staff and our industrial members, such as augmenting teaching materials and equipment, offering relevant work placements, focus research, accessing industrial technology and data, and ultimately retaining talent in our industry.

Juergen Maier CBE – the former chief executive of Siemens UK – was a keynote speaker during the event, letting the audience know his views on the importance of partnerships between industry and academia. The conference included interactive sessions held in breakout rooms which allowed us to gain valuable input from all of the participants.

From this first event, we were able to learn that academia would like Gambica to use our reliable pool of employers for placements and apprenticeships, and to take on a more formal role in bridging the gap between industry and academia.

We discovered that academics feel the best practice for collaboration with industry can be through routes such as academic placements, focussing on primary and secondary education, and making use of existing initiatives such as Made Smarter UK, and Primary and Secondary Engineer. Gambica can act as the ambassador for opening up opportunities and increasing the awareness of where synergies can be made between academia and industry.

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