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Business and universities agree on collaboration to boost growth and the economy

Over 200 businesses from across the South East Midlands attended the Universities Mean Business event, organised by the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership to bring the region’s six universities together with local business owners and managers.

The event, held at Cranfield University and opened by its Vice Chancellor Sir Peter Gregson, included a peek inside the driverless LUTZ Pathfinder pod, transported to the event by Milton Keynes-based Transport Catapult Centre, and a joint talk on Smart Cites by the Open University and University of Bedfordshire.

Pictured with the LUTZ Pathfinder are (from left) University of Buckingham vice-chancellor Sir Anthony Seldon and its director of MSc in Lean Management John Darlington with SEMLEP chief executive Stephen Catchpole.

The University of Bedfordshire and the OU also joined forces to deliver a keynote on cybersecurity, with Dr Gregory Epiphaniou from the University of Bedfordshire’s Department of Computer Science and Technology telling guests: “There are 150,000 new visitors to the Net each day and technology has failed to keep up with the threats to cyber security.” Cyber criminals, guests were told, are highly organised.

The OU’s senior lecturer in computing Dr Yijun Yu told the audience: “Think like a hacker, think systematically, identify any possible vulnerabilities to your software and rank your data by importance. This will ensure you can see which risk is most important to mitigate.”

Other topics under discussion during the day included lean management, led by the University of Buckingham, and business growth, led by the University of Northampton.

The event was the first big regional forum to be held since the government appointed Lord Adonis, chair fo the National Infrastructure Commission, to compile his review of the Oxford-Cambridge corridor as part of Westminster’s spending review announced in March.

Mr Catchpole said: “The review has the potential to unlock significant growth, jobs and housing across the whole area and enhance our position globally.

"Our event has enabled us to listen to views, share ideas and build upon the already excellent collaboration that exists between our world-class universities and businesses. We are now primed to feed this back to Lord Adonis.”

Dr Nicholas Lancaster, director of innovation and enterprise service at the University of Bedfordshire, said: “This Universities Mean Business event is a great opportunity for us to showcase our capabilities in working with business to support innovation, jobs and growth.

"We have had academics from the university speaking on a range of topics showcasing how research at the university can have real world application for businesses.

Sir Peter Gregson added: “We are attracting investment and employment to the region through our world-class education and research and welcome the opportunity to work closely with businesses to support further growth in this area.

“For example, our new Aerospace Integration Research Centre, in partnership with Airbus and Rolls Royce, will benefit the region and support local economic growth.”