7 May 2020
At a recent board meeting, LBV welcomed Professor Nishan Canagarajah, President and Vice Chancellor of the University of Leicester to discuss his vision for the University and how it can strengthen its connections with businesses in Leicester.
Born and educated in Sri Lanka, Nishan secured a scholarship from the University of Cambridge in Engineering where he received his BA (Hons) and PhD degrees.
He had been a member of staff at the University of Bristol throughout his academic career since taking up a post as a research assistant in 1993. Nishan worked his way through the academic ranks and his most recent position was Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise at the University.
Nishan is internationally recognised for his engineering research on signal processing and texture classification. He collaborated with major national and international companies through R&D, has engaged and worked with the Bristol City Mayor, the Local Enterprise Partnership, led large projects to build £100 million investment to build a new campus, and led a smart city pilot project in Bristol setting up 50 homes to monitor new tech/methodologies as a living lab.
Nishan has identified that the University of Leicester’s research strengths include life sciences and space, which is set to significantly grow once Space Park Leicester is established. In his short time in Leicester, he has already set up a new partnership with a local college, and has met with a whole host of organisations and individuals including Sir Peter Soulsby, Leicester City Mayor and the LLEP (Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership) to discuss and progress new opportunities.
When considering the strengths of the local business community, he believes that there are great opportunities locally for the creative industries sector and that we can make Leicester a ‘centre of excellence’ for creative industries. This will make it more attractive and enable more individuals to participate in, and to capitalise on the opportunities presented by new technologies (VR, AI), especially for disadvantaged groups / marginalised communities.
He believes that there are real opportunities in developing logistics networks to link with digital Leicester, and that the city and the University can be a testbed for the world by becoming a ‘living lab’ for all sorts of products and services.
Nishan has identified one of Leicester’s USPs as the diversity of our population because we have a large, stable, ethnically diverse population that provides an excellent test bed to trial new medicines and treatments. This is important because new medicines and treatments are currently tested mostly on a white population (e.g. AI algorithms tested in Silicon Valley with the local population) which means that they are not as effective on the ethnic/diverse populations around the world. This provides an advantage for Leicester to tap into the large home and international markets by producing more personalised medicines and treatments for all.
Nishan is keen to work with LBV and to increase the University’s engagement with local businesses and discussed potentially hosting breakfast meetings with local SMEs to facilitate better collaborations and local economic development.
Jane Cowley, Chair of LBV added: “As an organisation, LBV is committed to collaboration between the private and public sectors, with our outstanding Universities and not to forget, our schools and colleges of higher and further education. Together, we can showcase the opportunities, skills and talents within our region, particularly when this pandemic is over and we will move on to rebuilding our economy.”