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Time for a Paradigm Shift in University-Industry Collaboration, According to Report

December 12, 2013

University-industry collaborations need a paradigm shift from the traditional one-way knowledge transfer model to a two-way knowledge co-creation model, according to a new report from the Big Innovation Centre (BIC) — Collaborate to Innovate. The authors propose that a shift toward a knowledge co-creation paradigm focused on holistic relationships between university and industry, specifically small- and medium-sized businesses (SMEs), will have more significant economic and societal impacts than the traditional one-way knowledge transfer that relies primarily on patents, licensing and startup formation. Although focused on the innovation ecosystem in the UK, the paper addresses four universally important questions on how to achieve successful university-business collaborations via a co-creation model:

  • What practices and institutional support structures ensure successful collaborations?
  • What interaction channels work well and which need support?
  • What is the role of different intellectual property protection strategies in creating value for the partners in the interaction?
  • How can the initiation of university business interactions be promoted?

To address these questions, BIC developed an extensive set of recommendations and findings that can be undertaken by universities, industry and policymakers to achieve the paradigm shift. The recommendations were developed primarily from over 200 surveys and 14 in-depth interviews with industry leaders in the United Kingdom (UK) and divided into action points for universities, industry and policymakers. Some highlighted recommendations include:

  • An increase in the number of open innovation networks available for SMEs;
  • The formation of joint research labs between industry and university to permanently share laboratory spaces and resources that will stimulate more organic knowledge spillover and cutting-edge research collaborations than the traditional research center model;
  • An increase in university-business placements through co-funding and knowledge co-creation challenges and projects with clear objects and outcomes;
  • The involvement of academic researchers, students and alumni from institutions of higher education is essential for developing holistic industry relationships and can be supported and developed by centralizing existing university resources such as tech transfer, business development and alumni engagement offices; and
  • New tenure models that incentivizes and rewards academics for engaging in industry partnerships.

The report also identifies several best practices that SMEs, universities and policymakers can undertake to increase openness in university-industry collaborations.

Although focused on the UK's innovation ecosystem, these recommendations and findings from BIC could address several problems that plague U.S. university-industry collaboration. U.S. institutions of higher education have the potential to be key-drivers of regional economies, but they must reconsider their relationship with industry to achieve that potential. Similar to the UK, a paradigm shift toward the co-creation could have significant economic and societal impacts on the United States. Read the report: http://www.biginnovationcentre.com/Publications/40/Public-Consultation-Collaborate-to-Innovate.

international, policy recommendations, higher ed, private initiatives