Where's the smart money? Private sector urged to run universities – and turn Nobels into cash

Tories want big business to establish science and technology institutions in bid to boost economy

A private American college paid for by a billionaire businessman was cited yesterday by a Government minister as the model for a new type of British university specialising in science and technology.

David Willetts, the Universities and Science minister, said he would like similar private universities dedicated to high-tech subjects to be set up in British cities, paid for solely by wealthy benefactors, companies or international organisations.

The idea is that privately-funded, postgraduate universities specialising in science and technology could help to overcome the problem of British universities being good at generating ideas, but not as good as their US counterparts at exploiting them to generate businesses, jobs and wealth – epitomised by Stanford University PhD students Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the founders of Google.

The US model for the British initiative is a science graduate school to be built on Roosevelt Island in New York with the help of a large donation from Atlantic Philanthropies, whose founder Charles Feeney, 80, made billions of dollars from duty-free shops.

Mr Willetts said yesterday that as good as existing universities were in Britain, there was still room for a new type of postgraduate institution paid for by the private sector to focus on the latest developments in science and technology. "Local economic partnerships, universities, businesses and international partners can come together to put forward proposals for new institutions. There will be no additional government funding," he said.

"This time we will be looking to private finance and perhaps sponsorship from some of the businesses that are keen to recruit more British graduates. We already have a lot of interest and we want to move this to the next level." Although there will not be any public funding for the new universities, Mr Willetts said the Government could identify and help to remove any obstacles which might prevent individuals or organisations from sponsoring the initiatives.

"We will be discussing with the interested organisations how best to carry this initiative forward," he added.

Tale of two science teams: The search for a British Google

The American way...

Sergey Brin and Larry Page met at Stanford University in California, as computer science students with dorms littered with circuitry. Their talent was spotted in 1998 by Andy Bechtolsheim, founder of Sun Microsystems, who put up $100,000. Google is now valued at over £125bn.

... and the British

Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov, of Manchester University, first identified a layer of graphene, the world's thinnest, strongest and most conductive material, in an experiment in 2004. A Nobel Prize and knighthoods followed but investment has yet to materialise.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
News
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
News
people
Voices
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Guru Careers: Solutions Consultant

£30 - 40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Solutions Consultan...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£30 - 35k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Linux - Central London

£40000 - £48000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Linux ...

Ashdown Group: Linux Systems Administrator - Windows, Linux - Central London

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Linux Systems Administrat...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'