University-Industry engagement – a great concept, much-talked about currently. But how do you make it happen? The ARC Food Training Centre, in association with Professor Ron Johnston from the Australian Centre for Innovation has been running a pilot exercise this semester to learn exactly how to engage companies with researchers.
What have emerged as the key ingredients?
1. Company staff who can turn their minds away from the daily pressures to identify significant challenges to some aspect of their business which could benefit from an independent expert examination.
2. Talented research students who, equally, are willing to turn their minds from their daily pressures of researching for their PhD to take on an industry perspective and apply their wide knowledge and research skills to develop viable potential solutions to the challenge.
3. An intensive environment created by an 8-week limit to the exercise, requiring ideas to be rapidly researched, evaluated, discarded and modified against a range of technical, commercial, consumer and regulatory considerations.
4. A high level of trust, and easy communication, between the companies and the researchers.
And the outcomes?
1. Identification of a set of potentially commercially viable products/services, indications that at least some of the companies see business opportunities to be pursued further.
2. A cohort of research students with a keen awareness of the business perspective and the ways in which they can apply their knowledge with benefit in the commercial world.
3. Strengthened connections between the ARC Food Training Centre and its industry partners.
4. A roadmap for building ever more effective university-industry engagement.