About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

Global universities of the 21st century

I recently gave a keynote talk at the International Festival of Business in Liverpool, at an event on ‘Global Universities of the 21st Century’.

In essence I made two arguments:

First, that we needed to move away from the idea of the university as a sanctuary (though that is still relevant in some fields), and away from the production line model which dominated thinking in the late 20th century (which was all about tech transfer, licensing and spinouts).

Instead, we needed to support the different vision of the university as an embedded brain, immersed in its society and economy, inside cities not outside, actively collaborating, a node in networks rather than just a producer of knowledge which others consume.  

Second, I proposed that universities needed to apply systematic R&D methods to their own practice: experimenting with new methods of research, learning, and discipline generation, alongside systematic orchestration of knowledge about what works. It’s an irony that HE now lags behind many other fields in both respects, and has almost no focused R&D devoted to its own practice (though there is plenty of creativity). 

As an aside, I suggested that this may be one of the reasons why so many of the MOOCs were misconceived, and appeared to ignore several decades of learning about how to turn digital technologies into learning tools.

Photo: University of Innsbruck on Flickr CC


Geoff Mulgan

Geoff Mulgan

Geoff Mulgan

Chief Executive Officer

Geoff Mulgan was Chief Executive of Nesta from 2011-2019.

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