Cardiff Breakfast Club 4th July – Colin Riordan, VC Cardiff University

Posted: July 4, 2013 in Business/Cardiff News, Cardiff Breakfast Club
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Breakfast ClubColin Riordan became Vice Chancellor of Cardiff University in September 2012, having previously spent 5 years as Vice Chancellor of the University of Essex. He outlined the University’s inspiring “vision for innovation” to the Cardiff Breakfast Club members this morning.

With around 16,000 undergraduate students, Cardiff University is “an important cog in the region’s economy”. Colin is very aware of the University’s role in and obligation towards the future prosperity of Wales. He called the University an “engine of prosperity for Wales”, and discussed how he intends to closely examine just how it can turn its intellectual and physical assets into economic growth, and improving the quality of life for people in Wales.

To this end, the University recently published “The Way Forward”, a document outlining its strategy and “direction of travel” for the future. This includes an ambition to rank consistently among the world’s Top 100 universities, and in the Top 20 of The Times’ influential university league table.


Colin Riordan, the Vice-Chancellor of Cardiff University, outlined the institution’s “vision for innovation”.

Key to this will be the Cardiff Innovation System, a combination of physical and academic resources that will “change the way we do everything” at the University. All the University’s schools and disciplines will work together in a self-sustaining system to feed what Colin called “translational research”: bringing academic research activity into the commercial sector. For example, the business school can provide valuable models and entrepreneurial advice, while the social sciences can examine social acceptance of technologies and undertake “horizon scanning” to suggest the most promising areas for research in the future.

The Innovation System will need physical space, with lab facilities that are available to both commercial and academic researchers. These will have shared social spaces to encourage collaboration and interaction. Colin called these “Serendipity Spaces”, environments conducive to creativity where people from all disciplines can mingle and “spark something”.

This will all be underpinned by close student involvement, to educate the next generation of entrepreneurial innovators. Colin wants students to be as much “innovation natives” as they are “digital natives”; viewing entrepreneurship as a normal part of life. This, combined with leading research expertise and a ready supply of highly qualified graduates will work as a magnet for inward investment, raising the profile of Wales internationally and giving Wales a “reputation for innovation”.

Many of the ideas Colin discussed are still at “a conceptual stage”, and he warmly encouraged Breakfast Club members to actively engage with the University, praising the mutual benefits of strong private-sector relationships.

While engineering such a dramatic change in culture for Cardiff, and for Wales, will be challenging, with the right support in place Colin was emphatic that the plans will succeed, concluding: “Other countries have – and I don’t see why Wales can’t too.”

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