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It is important for universities to engage with businesses if they are to produce relevant research, says Massey University’s newly appointed Professor in Innovation and Economics.
Professor Christoph Schumacher says a focus on entrepreneurship, innovation, and commercialisation is behind a new initiative that will make it easier for businesses to develop strong research partnerships with the University.
Called the Auckland Knowledge Exchange Hub, the project’s first business partnership is with professional services company KPMG – and it has already produced tangible results. KPMG’s annual Financial Institutions Performance Survey, released this morning, contains additional analysis this year by Massey researchers.
“Massey’s key contribution to the survey was a detailed forecast of the performance of the financial sector,” Professor Schumacher says. “Forecasting is notoriously difficult – it’s a bit like predicting the weather – and it’s important that your analysis is based on sound, scientific principles.”
The data, according to Professor Schumacher, suggests the profit levels of financial institutions will remain steady or fall slightly in the coming two years.
“Those who were hoping that the financial industry's gains in profitability, made in the middle of 2011, would continue into 2012 will be disappointed. While recovery from the financial crisis has been quicker than initially anticipated, growth has now levelled off,” he says.
"But the good news for banks is that industry lending looks set to increase off the back of a positive overall economic outlook, and the hope of decreasing unemployment. Overall, the indicators show a positive picture if you are looking for stability. It is certainly better than the economic outlook in much of Europe and the United States."
KPMG partner Ben van Delden says the business community is hungry for insight about the trends of the past, with a perspective on how the future may be shaped.
“Combining our resources with Massey has enabled us to combine business insights and academic rigour to deliver more useful thought leadership to our clients,” Mr van Delden says. “KPMG sees our partnership role with the Auckland Knowledge Exchange Hub as a critical contribution to fuelling prosperity for the Auckland region.”
Massey University Vice-Chancellor Steve Maharey says the initiative is a way for the University’s research to contribute to New Zealand’s economic development. "This is an example of Massey contributing to the understanding of economic issues, and helping New Zealand provide innovative responses to those issues.”
Professor Schumacher says the relationship between Massey University and KPMG illustrates the importance of having a two-way link between academic and commercial organisations so they can transfer knowledge and share ideas.
“Companies have all these research questions they want answered, and Massey has fantastic researchers, so I thought, ‘Let’s match them up.’ It is important to create two-way communication so you inspire and produce research that is useful and relevant to the business community,” he says.
“This is very different to what a research centre does. A research centre focuses on a specific area; they do their research, and then disseminate the information.”
Professor Schumacher is a co-director of the Auckland Knowledge Exchange Hub and responsible for developing partnerships with the private sector. His colleague, Professor Paul Spoonley from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, will lead the hub’s public sector engagement, and research has already been completed on ethnic precincts for the Auckland Council.