I was a student in York and am well aware of the strength of the two universities. My hon. Friend is right; linking research with its commercial application is critical. Some progress has been made with the impact approach taken in the sector, although there is more to be done. We considered that issue in the Select Committee on Business, Innovation and Skills during the last Parliament. Although there is more to be done, we should recognise that a huge amount is already being done to link research and its application. I shall mention a few examples from Sheffield.
We would be foolish to lose our advantage in world-leading research, but it could happen if we do not take care. “The Plan for Growth”, published by the Chancellor and the Minister’s predecessor in December 2014, acknowledged the challenge:
“If we fail to move quickly to secure our position in a globalised world, then it is highly likely that other countries....will do so ahead of us. We not only run the risk of missing out on new opportunities, but also of losing the position of strength that we have today”.
The Government acknowledge that we can and must do more.
Innovation policy now needs to focus on developing industrial and private sector research and development capacity, building on the UK’s strong and well connected science base. It will do that by working with universities. For example, to take up the point made by my hon. Friend Rachael Maskell a moment ago, the University of Sheffield works closely with Rolls-Royce, Boeing and more than 100 supply chain companies. Also in my constituency, Sheffield Hallam University secured Toshiba as the first technology partner in the Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre, designing new products to help promote the integration of exercise into people’s daily lives and address common health issues. Hallam’s new National Centre of Excellence for Food Engineering is supported by more than 40 companies, including Mars and Nestlé UK, to support growth in the food industry through improved manufacturing technology and staff capability.
Across my city, and across the whole university sector, science and research are creating jobs, but we could do more.