We welcome Professor Martin Boddy, Pro Vice-Chancellor of Research and Business Engagement at the University of the West of England, to a regular series of interviews with leading figures in the South West business community.
Hello Martin, tell us about your role as Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Business Engagement:
I am part of the Chancellor’s Executive Team, and I am responsible for promoting University research and strengthening the relationship between the University and the business community. I work with every faculty within the university to enable them to secure funding for their research, which can be sourced from various places, including research councils, private businesses and the EU. I also work with them to help build better relationships within the business community. I head up a great team of around eighty people in Research Business and Innovation who actually do all the real work.
What challenges do you personally face over the next 12 months?
The key challenge at the moment is the renewal of the university’s strategy from 2014 – 2020. We aim to put the University of the West of England at the heart of the business community within the greater Bristol area. That will involve working with business on graduate recruitment, professional and executive development, innovation, technology transfer, consultancy – any area where we can help to make a difference.
How has the current difficult economic climate impacted UWE?
The current economic conditions mean student demand has dropped a bit in some areas like planning and construction programmes but others such as engineering have gained. Demand for part-time study, either self-funded or supported by employers has understandably dropped off a bit. Overseas recruitment particularly into areas like business is strong – but requires a lot of hard work to develop.
Do you think the government is doing enough to support universities?
I wouldn’t say we quite agree with all the measures the government has taken with regards to university finance. The increase of university fees to £9000 per year and focusing student numbers to an extent on a limited number of ‘top tier’ universities has made things difficult for UWE, where our strength is in practical education, training and employable skills – all the things the government keeps saying we need to boost economic growth. We deliver: we are in the top 12 nationally for graduate employment.
What’s your view on the South West business scene?
The South West has a lot of great things going for it and is one of the regions that can get ‘UK PLC’ up and running again. We have outstanding high-tech firms and leading creative industries that are starting to come together in a way that has not been seen elsewhere. We also have excellent professional services that have thrived because of their specialist knowledge.
Do you have any Non-Executive Directorships or advisory roles?
I have several advisory roles. My main one is acting as chair for the South West Observatory, a social enterprise network that provides data and analysis on social issues for the public sector and private businesses. We recently ran a Housing, Planning and Economy event featuring Planning Minister Nick Boles and Mayor George Ferguson and a host of other specialists.
Do you have any advice that you’d pass on to a newly appointed company director?
Having a skilled and motivated workforce is essential. Skimping on training is a false economy and will cost in the long run. I recognise that it may be difficult for small businesses to afford training, but still give your staff opportunities to be creative and make sure that there are clear lines of communication at every level within your business. I would also emphasise the importance of having solid intelligence and hard facts before making any business decisions. Use data analysis to find possibilities and take advantage of them.
What do you like to do outside of work?
A lot of dog-walking – we have a ‘Working Cocker’ and we haven’t found the off-switch yet. We have young children aged eleven and thirteen so I spend a lot of time on the football touch-line or ferrying people to horse-riding. When I get the opportunity, I like to go fly-fishing for trout. My professional life is very busy, but I do make time to spend with my family – not enough, they have to remind me at times, but I do try.
Who is your hero / personal inspiration?
All those who overcame real barriers to get to positions of power and influence - Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, Barack Obama.
What is on your I-Pod and what are you reading right now?
The music varies from Bruce Springsteen to the Bath Cello recitals. I generally only get to read for pleasure when I am on holiday when I consume lots of books on the Kindle, the recent wave of Scandinavian crime fiction and thrillers – no self-improvement books, maybe I should.
What has been your experience of working with our company?
With UWE I have been delighted to work with Moon Consulting on the Board 2020 Conference and I look forward to attending it next week. We hope to collaborate with Moon in the future and find other ways to increase our engagement with their extensive networks in the business community.