Monday, 25 October 2010

Knowledge Sharing between Academia and Industry conference

Alastair Stewart has asked me to publicise this upcoming conference

Academia is constantly berated for not obeying industry’s demand to “Give Me Something I Can Make Money With”, i.e. collaborating enough with industry to create new products, generate jobs and (the cynic would say) taxes.

But it shouldn’t be seen as a one way street. Academia needs examples to keep teaching current, speakers to give practical applications of theories, new research areas and partners to develop careers.

The problem isn’t working out how the two groups can work together – there’s a myriad of ways: transfer partnerships, PhDs, long term collaborative research, contract facilities, training, EngDs, knowledge transfer networks, spin-outs and licensing, to name but a few.

The problem is each world has its own distinct and usually conflicting drivers: academics strive to conduct new research to publish, while industry needs to maximise profits now and (in sensible companies at least) in the future.

This means that academics might not be interested in transfering blue sky research which they did 10 years ago. Or they might shy from entering a new sector to start a spin-out. And industry isn’t necessarily interested in a three year research programme when “I need the results yesterday!” 

The barriers to collaboration are numerous. But there are also many sources of support. Several universities have tied up with venture capital companies to support spin-outs. Governments have transfer support schemes such as the knowledge transfer partnerships in the UK. Commercial departments in higher education have the ability to protect and license intellectual property rights. Most academics welcome the opportunity to supervise industrial PhDs, and most institutes support academics in attracting them. Most large companies have research departments which help to alleviate the yesterday! pressures from the rest of the organisation.

The real trick is (as it usually is) the right people on both sides finding each other at the right time. And that takes time. Time to network, time to figure out who’s doing what, time to determine what you really really want.

All these issues and ideas are within the purview of the Institute of Knowledge Transfer. The Institute’s conference, Innovation through Knowledge Transfer (IKT’10) is in Coventry, UK on 7/8 December. Non-members welcome.

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