An academic manifesto for Web 2.0?

In recent years, the School of Informatics at the University of Bradford has produced graduates that have gone on to staff the likes of AOL and Freeserve (now Orange’s broadband division). Indeed in the late-90s and the first era of the British internet industry, one department alone provided Freeserve with a co-founder of the company, a number of designers, developers and project managers.

The school is now reaching out to digital industries, to gather advice and guidance on shaping its current and future programmes; notably undergraduate courses, research groups and knowledge transfer activities.

I’ve recently been asked to join the school’s Industry Advisory Board to contribute some industry perspective to the school. I’d welcome any ideas, thoughts and comments from the TechCrunch UK audience on what they feel computing, digital media and internet courses and academic institutions can do to contribute to the Web 2.0 ecosphere. I’ve also been in discussion with a few other institutes, such as Leeds Met’st Innovation North school, so there’s a growing call from academia for collaboration with industry.

Whether it’s thoughts on startup funding, joint ventures with universities, internship opportunities or academic content, or other areas, I’d love to hear everyone’s views and see if we can articulate a manifesto for Web 2.0 in academia….please send your thoughts as comments, I’d like to keep the dialogue public and sharable :)

Update: (Sam Sethi)
Connecting Academia with the real world of commerce as Imran explains is a great idea. e.g Google and FaceBook. In fact one group of university students at Imperial College, London has already started to tap into the wealth of knowledge within their student body. They founded Imperial Entrepreneurs in April, 2006. The President of the group is Sumon Sadhu, 22, who in his spare time is studying a PhD (Infectious Disease) and their mission is:

“to drive innovation from within the student body through providing inspiration, education, networking opportunities and the chance to learn by doing for the next generation of disruptive technology entrepreneurs from Imperial College, London. Our vision is to create an ecosystem which enables the top student talent to interface with the London entrepreneurial community similar to those that have empowered MIT and Stanford students.”

One factor I think that has been crucial to their success, has been the support they have recieved from almuni and seasoned investors such as Paul Birch (Birthday Alarm), Michael Smith (Firebox & MindCandy) and Danny Rimer (Index Ventures).

Proving the point that this symbiotic relationship between academia and commerce can work, is a startup called Extate, who hale from Imperial College. Extate is a very clever property search engine. “The Extate engine does not use any datafeeds whatsoever – data is retrieved from Webpages solely by crawling and parsing. This is arguably the biggest technological distinction between Extate and its competitors. Scalable parsing (the process whereby meaningful information is extracted from Webpage source code) is very difficult. The Extate crawler and parser are believed to be the market leaders, worldwide.”

The other thing I really like about Extate, that also seperates it from the others, is its support for microformats (hlisting) and simple list extensions. In the future, being able to discover via metadata using personalised preference rules will certainly make finding timely and relevant information much easier.

Others doing similar things:

So if you are interested in finding out more, you might like to see if there are any spaces left for the “Million Dollar Mayhem” party tomorrow night.

Friday, 8th December 2006
5 Cavendish Square, Mayfair
10:00pm start

Hosted at the classy No.5 Cavendish Square in Mayfair and connecting Imperial, LSE and Oxford Entrepreneurs members as well as special guests from the London entrepreneurial scene, anyone else welcome, this is the hottest entrepreneur party in years, to be filmed by BBC1 TV.

Coming to the party are…

  • ALEX TEW – Founder, and Pixelotto
  • SYED AHMED – From BBC’s The Apprentice
  • CHARLIE OSMOND – CEO, FreshMinds
  • MICHAEL SMITH – CEO, Firebox and Mind Candy
  • DARIUS NORELL – Founder, Real World magazine
  • JAMES MURRAY-WELLS – CEO, GlassesDirect, UK Entrepreneur of the Year

Note: Smart dress code, ladies free all night, guys £10 before 10.30pm, £15 after.

All welcome! To get on the guestlist, email before 6pm on Friday 8th December or visit

I guess I should go along and maybe catchup with Alex to better understand Pixelotto ;-)