Last Friday I was privileged to attend the Kent Business Summit, organised by Kent Business School in the magnificent Sibson Building. This was a fantastic event, bringing together over 200 delegates to examine how Kent and Medway can best face its challenges. I was able, in my closing remarks, to underline the University’s own contribution to the region’s economy – we produce some £800m in Gross Value Added; our graduates provide higher level skills needed by local employers; and our research underpins Knowledge Transfer Programmes for businesses.
But I was also able to look forward to the possibility for increasing University engagement with business. I want to see us as a strong university in a strong County. The Government’s Industrial Strategy White Paper, published last November, set out a vision to create an economy that boosts productivity and earning power throughout the UK and offers new opportunities for partnership between universities and business. We expect to learn shortly about government proposals for a ‘Knowledge Excellence Framework’ designed to sit alongside the REF and the TEF. We will be working with a range of the key economic fora in our own region – in particular the South East Local Enterprise Partnership – to explore how we can best play our part in helping economic growth. Kent Innovation and Enterprise is playing a key role in this.
In one of last term’s blogs, David Nightingale set out our plans, with Canterbury Christ Church University, for a Kent and Medway Medical School. There won’t be anything substantive to report on this project until the end of March. But if we are successful, I think there is a growing recognition that the benefits will go much wider than improving Kent’s health infrastructure –vital though that area undoubtedly is. I look forward to discussing how a new medical focus might help other economic activity when representatives from the Thames Estuary Growth Commission visit Canterbury next month.
From its foundation, the University of Kent has been grounded in the community. I look forward to building on these foundations in 2018 and beyond.
Professor Karen Cox, Vice-Chancellor and President