On Friday, the Industry Collaboration Zone (ICZ) Team were invited to facilitate one of the Chief Operating Officer’s Networking Sessions.  We were excited and a little nervous about this session. The ICZs were building momentum, we had finally been able to release our Programme Brief, and start explaining to the wider University what we’d been up to for the past few months and what the future of our single strategic priority was going to look like.  This was our first big public outing, our first step onto that busy road.  We were right to be excited, and a little nervous, Team University of Salford did not hold back, and rightly so.  This is a big deal.  This is going to change things.  We have to get this right.

We used padlet, a virtual wall for people to post their questions about ICZs.  What’s great about padlet is that it provides a nice safe, anonymous place to post questions.  No hand raising required.  Everyone can get involved.  And wow, it worked!  Tony had reckoned he’d be able to answer any ICZ question, and he had a good go in amongst some awful chicken jokes, but what he could answer was a drop in a sea of questions.  There was lots of enthusiasm, lots of desire to get involved, to make change, and some understandable concern about what this was going to be and how it was going to make a difference.

The biggest question, the one on everyone’s lips was “What is an ICZ? What’s it going to look like for me?” and looking back at the questions and comments this morning, we’ve got a bit more work to do here.  So, as the newest member of Team ICZ, here’s my definition.  This is what it means to me, this is what I’ve learnt since I started in February.

The ICZs aren’t something really new particularly, lots of people picked up on that.  They’re something which we’ve known for a while is a good idea.  I mean you don’t have to look far to see the value in collaborating and partnering with industry.  It’s a no brainer for teaching, research, philanthropy, building a better University, building better business, building a better community.  And lots of people are doing it at Salford, excelling at it!  The ICZs will provide the framework and support to do more of it, to make it our thing.  Whether that’s as simple as finding money or space, or facilitating partnerships, starting conversations, growing ideas, building curriculum, making something (Speak to Neil Currie, he’s do some amazing stuff in Newton Building).  I know it feels a little bit amorphous at the minute which makes it feel uncertain and a bit scary, and it is.  But this is a big organisation and change doesn’t happen overnight.  We’ve got the bones of a structure, a good strong structure, and on Friday, you started giving us the meat to go on those bones.  The ideas about how to do things better, and the challenging questions making us reflect and really think about what is important.  You got involved, and that’s brilliant, stay involved!  Get in touch (icz@salford.ac.uk)!  We’re in this together.