In times of covid19 home office and self-isolation, I found the peace to reflect about the trends which I am perceiving at the edge of industry and university collaboration. Writing this article feels like framing the evolution of cooperation between the business and the science world. The frame is a thin gray line and the trends are full of color!
At eye’s level between academia and industry
It is a clear win-win collaboration: Industry seeks for inspiration by the academic researchers and hopes to benefit from their patents, thought leadership and knowledge. Academia wants to increase research and make society benefit from it through their lectures and by introducing those inventions into a real industrial product. You ask yourself which are the currencies in this deal? Industry provides money, data and feed-back from the market – and wants patents and confidentiality. Professors provide resources, know-how, inventions and patents – and want data, funds & rights to publish about their results.
During the past ten years working around partnerships between Siemens and academia, I always appreciated the fact that it’s a relationship at eyes-level, when you talk research. It is a fair and professional encounter. Researchers on both sides want to change the world with their technical research, whether it’s an innovation to support the energy transition or it’s developing the next faster, cheaper or more sustainable innovation. And whether it’s an incremental or a disruptive innovation.
The focus is not only on R&D, but includes now broader forms of collaborations & interaction
My personal job in the past couple of years has been to manage the strategic Siemens partnerships with TU Berlin and the ZOLLHOF Tech Incubator. In this role, I observed manifold kinds of collaboration partnerships between Siemens and universities. Let me share some thoughts and trends which resulted from a global gathering of industry-academia collaboration experts at the annual meeting of the Siemens Center of Knowledge Interchange :
- Globally volumes and relevance of publicly funded research with many partners is increasing, while volumes of bilateral research projects are decreasing
- The geopolitical importance of international cross-university alliances increases – as students and young researchers choose a university which is part of a strong academic international network
- Digital Tech is in – and interdisciplinary research is becoming more important, mostly sciences in connection to digital disciplines
- Many universities are investing strategically in infrastructure, like digitalization spaces, creative environment for entrepreneurship, living labs for sciences, and much more
- There’s an increasing offering from academia of online programs for students & executives on computer science skills / digital tech / digital transformation – much-needed now that students need to learn from online courses to reduce expansion of covid-19!
- Universities develop new curricula on digital tech trends (AI, Cybersecurity, Industrial Internet of Things, Connected Systems, etc) – universities approach industry to get a practical view
- I observe an increasing interest in models for gender balanced expert exchange for university and industry employees interested to work in the other environment for a limited time frame
- There’s an increasing relevance of Digital Ecosystems to foster innovation communities where people from different organizations co-ideate and co-create (like the Siemens Innovation Ecosystem)
- Human Resources is creating new industrial programs to attract PhD students and PostDocs to fill the gaps with highly skilled tech employees – especially in digital research topics
- Students / Graduates who now enter the working world, are confronted with a difficult decision – do I want to work in the corporate or in the start-up world? (Twenty years ago, when I started my career at Siemens, the decision I took was between working in management consulting or in the operative world where you must get the job done. I chose the latter. )
- I observe an increasing importance of thought leadership and media reach to position industrial offerings in the market
- There’s an increasing number of courses on entrepreneurship at universities for students to develop their agility and entrepreneurial skills on new digital business models
- Universities invest in start-up incubators and look for partnerships with Siemens for academic startup scouting
This list is not comprehensive! Therefore, I would
love to hear from you, which other trends you are seeing out there when
collaborating with industry and science!
As for me, I love this job at the edge of different working realities.
I’ll keep the collaboration going, at eye’s level.