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The Future of Universities: Use partnerships to innovate and grow

Srikanth Iyengar, AVP and Head of UK, Infosys

Published in June 2013

What’s next for universities? With the sector diversifying into online learning, not to mention the many varied opportunities offered by further and higher education colleges, it’s become harder to say what a university will look like in the future. In March 2013, leading academics and experts, organisations, and international student leaders at Warwick Universities Summit 2013 tackled the issue of universities in 2025. Speakers from across the sector discussed topics such as funding and widening access, and what the value of the global public university should be in a rapidly developing world. Here, Srikanth Iyengar, AVP and Head of UK at Infosys shares his thoughts.

Ants carrying leaves

Powerful global ‘megatrends’ are shaping your future. You might not even be aware of many of them. You might not even know what exactly a megatrend is. But rest assured, they’re going to have a profound effect on you and the way your company does business.

Some of these megatrends – such as emerging economies and new healthcare delivery models– are going to be unsettling and disruptive. Take a look back over the history of the planet: major social and economic transformations have never been without their growing pains. The organisations left standing when the dust settles are those that not only embraced change; they used it to their advantage.

How do you build the enterprise of tomorrow? By making an effective collaboration today. For instance, few companies have adopted Internet retailing faster than those in the United Kingdom. As such, smart retailers from around the world make it a priority to partner with British universities. We have a rich cultural heritage that encourages innovative thinking.

At the corporate level, disruptive innovation is transforming companies that embrace change. BBC iPlayer, for instance, is a leading mobile television technology. British supermarkets were the first to pioneer loyalty cards; online grocery shopping is more advanced here than anywhere else. Innovations like Click and Collect are helping high street companies like Argos to compete with the likes of Amazon.

Economic regeneration begins with innovation. So does supporting grassroots entrepreneurs. Regional clusters like Tech City in London help foster a community of innovation. Extensions of Canary Wharf focus on the so-called FinTech community, which is a smart commercial development that helps drive connections between technology start-ups, universities and the financial services industry.

Speaking of technology, new consumption models, like the Cloud, are helping companies create more flexible cost structures. Successful corporations are using technology to remain agile enough in what can be an uncertain and volatile economy. They are also using mobile and Internet innovations to develop new business models.

The public sector needs to do its part. Governments should be mindful to create the right environments to let these collaborations flourish. They need to avoid protection for uncompetitive industries that refuse to innovate. Politicians would do well to focus on allowing the free flow of the world’s finest minds into the UK.

Of course, the most disruptive technologies don’t mean much if they don’t have the right people behind them. Infosys cherishes its partnerships with Cambridge University and Belfast’s Queens University. The British university system nurtures the kind of innovation that drives success within global corporations.

That said, governments and businesses need to tighten their bonds. Science and technology education create the precise skills that companies need to succeed. Having the right 'e-skills' is precisely this kind of quality that companies in the UK are looking for among recent graduates.

With a strong pipeline of people, the university system is well placed to continue its vital role in driving growth and prosperity. Emerging trends in business and society, along with changing demographic patterns, are presenting companies with new challenges and opening up opportunities. Only firms that relentlessly innovate to overcome challenges can gain and sustain a competitive edge.


For more from the Knowledge Centre's Global Universities Summit blog, which focussed on the issues in higher education ahead of the 2013 Global University Summit, please click here.

The Global University Summit 2013 was hosted by the University of Warwick in Whitehall, London.

Image: Leaf cutter ants. Source (Flickr).


Srikanth IyengarSrikanth leads a global sales team that drives the pipeline development and successful closure of all US$ 50M+ TCV deals across Infosys. He is also the Head of the UK Centre and a member of the Regional Leadership Council, Europe. Srikanth also has additional responsibility for Infosys’s external interactions in the UK across a wide spectrum of stakeholders, including analysts, industry associations and governmental bodies. Prior to joining Infosys, Srikanth worked with a leading CPG major. He is a qualified electrical engineer and holds a management degree.