The CBI is urging universities to be more business friendly.
CBI chief Digby Jones, speaking at a seminar organised by the Department of Education and Skills, said that business was missing out on world-class researchers and higher quality graduates because some universities lack customer focus.
Jones presented a CBI paper aimed at identifying the benefits, barriers and practical ways of promoting effective collaboration between business and higher education in the UK.
The paper includes the findings of a snapshot survey of 50 larger CBI member companies, the vast majority of which already have links with universities. Half of the firms said they benefit from the intellectual and research expertise in the universities. Almost half use links as a means of picking out future recruits.
However, half of the respondents said a lack of "customer service" from some universities was a barrier to greater involvement. Some firms had difficulty identifying the right person to talk to and others found that the accepted sense of business urgency was not shared by the academics.
A quarter of companies said graduate recruits lacked business awareness and high level skills, and 14 per cent of firms said courses are not sufficiently relevant to business. Employers said they would be more willing to get involved if universities were prepared to develop well-defined bespoke courses that add value to the business.
Jones said: "Successful links between business and universities have contributed to the world class companies we have in Britain today. But if more firms are to benefit from collaboration we all have a role to play.
"Universities need to become more business friendly and customer focused. If some of the UK's largest companies have problems identifying the right person to speak to in a university, just think how daunting it will be for a small or medium-sized business.
"Business must play its part: Many companies show that successful relationships can be a source of innovation, world class research and development and increased productivity. We need to shout about our successes and spread best practice.
"The Government can encourage business and universities to w