Collaboration Between Universities And Business: There Is A Larger Ecosystem To Consider

Last week the European Commission’s DG Education and Culture organised the 7th University-Business Forum. Together with my colleagues Todd Davey and Victoria Galan Muros we presented and discussed the outcomes of the largest study on the State of University-Business Cooperation (UBC) in Europe. With more than 300 participants from all across Europe it was interesting to see how we’re all alike on many aspects, although sometimes still fail to see the bigger picture.

A few key outcomes from our session on the State of UBC in Europe:

  • Valorisation’ is an under-developed activity in comparison to university-business cooperation in the fields of education and research. Valorisation refers to the direct outputs of a university in the form of commercialisation of R&D, student entrepreneurship and academic entrepreneurship. The number of start-ups coming out of universities still only represents a small portion of the activities universities undertake with their external environment. Concepts such as TeamAcademy are an excellent way in addressing the potential shortage on entrepreneurial skills, and taking away the risk aversiveness that Wolfgang Herrmann was referring to. In total 43% of the TeamAcademy students become entrepreneurs, and 98% are employed after completing their studies.
  • The various stakeholders involved (i.e. Higher Education Management, Academics, Business) have different motivations when it comes to undertaking university-business cooperation. With the higher education managers being concerned with funding, the academics about their research and business about acquiring new knowledge and technologies to stay at the innovation forefront. One needs to bring these motives together and create a common understanding to ensure successful UBC.
  • More and better understanding is needed to successfully collaborate. Universities need to make a professionalisation shift when it comes to university-business cooperation. Just as Siemens has their CKI program to strategically manage relationships with universities, universities need strategic programs to manage their relationshipswith business. Relationships are key, it is all about people…
  •  Proximity matters – your collaboration partner is sitting right around the corner. In order to collaborate you need to develop (1) trust, (2) mutual commitment and (3) have a shared goal. This is developed when you establish a personal relationships with your business partners and very difficult to do when you’re sitting hundreds of kilometres apart. As an example, Siemens only encloses universities in their CKI program when there is a R&D facility of theirs nearby. Another example presented during the forum was Dairy Crest and Harper Adam’s university, who are based in the same region. This has even led to Dairy Crest establishing an Innovation Centre on the Campus of Harper Adam’s, to be even closer to the knowledge.
  • We need to be educating our students with the appropriate skills – We need to find new ways to educate students but also our employees. The approach of concepts such as TeamAcademy are very much needed in today’s world, and have been yielding success for more than 20 years. Siemens even indicated that the skills being developed at TeamAcademy are exactly those that Siemens is aiming to develop amongst its employees.

So, what should we do next?

There is a whole ecosystem to consider – We need to start looking at the bigger picture and understand that undertaking fragmented university-business cooperation activities is not the way to success. There is too big of a split in the universities in the various activities they undertake with business. It is time to start considering the entire university-business cooperation ecosystem and move towards an overall university-wide approach for collaborating with business. Not through technology transferoffices, but with relationship managers.

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By | 2017-05-10T13:47:29+00:00 April 15th, 2017|0 Comments

About the Author:

Arno Meerman is the CEO at University Industry Innovation Network (UIIN) as well as being a Council Member of the Accreditation Council for Engaged and Entrepreneurial Universities (ACEEU) and Business Development Manager for the Science-to-Business Marketing Research Centre, one of Europe’s leading scientific institutes in the area of university-business cooperation. He is currently the Project Manager for the State of European University-Business Cooperation initiative being executed for the European Commission and has been the Conference Organiser for the UIIN conference series, which averages over 350 people per conference and is the largest in the topic of university-industry cooperation.

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