Follow the Thought Leader…better still be a Thought Leader

Written by Rachel Norton, ICZ Programme Officer


Thought Leadership was quite a new concept to me, and not something I was familiar with before joining Team ICZ.  What is a thought leader?  Is it something straight out of George Orwell’s 1984?  Not quite…there’s no mind control here.  As I see it Thought Leaders are people who just get to that idea first, they get it, they apply it, and more importantly they tell people about it, get people involved, excited and interested.  What’s great about thought leadership is that anyone can be a thought leader; everyone has the ability to learn something new, to develop, and to inspire. Universities are full of thought leaders!  Learning, development and inspiration are kind of our bread and butter after all.

Our ICZ Thought Leaders were asked to be involved because they were already working in a way that fitted with our ICZ message; in fact they were way ahead of us, building partnerships, starting conversations, growing ideas, making stuff.  This was already part of their day job.  We didn’t have to do any ICZ sales pitch to these guys, they already got it, they were selling it before we even had an ICZ label, and that isn’t uncommon.  As I said in my last blog, we are doing lots of this stuff already.  The ICZs are about growing and supporting this work.  Shouting loudly about it so students, staff, industry, researchers hear us and think the University of Salford is the place to go for exceptional industry partnerships.

The COO Networking Session on the 10th June flagged some concerns around this group and its membership.  It’s fair to say that there wasn’t a democratic process for pulling together our group of Thought Leaders; we asked around, we got some names and some interested people got involved.    The formation of this group could have been better and more widely communicated, and we’ll learn from that, but what’s important here is that there doesn’t need to be a single thought leaders group.  This was always intended to be a starting point.  This was us dipping our toe into the University pool and seeing what bites.

This group of thought leaders did not disappoint, they have come up with some great ideas, challenged everyday thinking about how we can structure, implement and deliver the ICZ programme.  You can do the same.

If you have an idea, something that fits the ICZ agenda and that you want to drive forwards then set up a group. We can help with that, we can connect you with like-minded people, we can offer projects for work, we can support you to facilitate your group so you can inspire and develop others.  You’ll be able to feed in to and influence the wider work of the ICZs.  If you’re up for the challenge then do it! The ICZs are here to foster, develop, and enhance our industry partnerships and the more people who are involved, whoever you are, whatever your background and experience, the more successful it will be.

If you want to be involved, get involved, contact us at



Why did the chicken cross the road? And what is an ICZ anyway?

Written by Rachel Norton, ICZ Programme Officer

Cake!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 (!  We’re in this together.