I recently wrote a blog post for the National Centre for University and Business here called Barriers to university - business collaboration .
Below I wish to explore how Eulergy and other services can make collaboration easier.
Companies large and small
So you know you how want to look for hot new talent, some new innovations, a piece of very specific IP, or a pair of highly trained hands? Large companies have been dipping into universities for various reasons for hundreds of years, and rightly so.
Where else do you find people who effectively think for a living?
There are frustrations felt by both businesses and universities concerning the discovery of research, communication channels, general bureaucracy and IP. How these things can be addressed will be no mean no mean feat. I've heard many horror stories over the years of universities stifling collaboration through overzealous lawyers, lack of expertise (the university KTN worker isn't necessarily the most qualified person to appreciate the specific research you're handing them), or simply bad lines of communication for help with collaborations.
Eulergy is part of a few new services which hope to help communication internally and externally. Sites such as researchgate.net and academia.edu provide networking for academics; mendeley.com provide document, forums and bibliography tools for collaborative research practises; and academic publishing is changing in line with open access practises exampled with the UK's Gateway to Research. Eulergy.com enables the communication between academics and business, or indeed other organisations, charities etc. through an online website in a central way - akin to these previous sites, allowing a small business to access specific research needs wherever that academic may reside.
Are you talking the right language?
During Eulergy's infancy it was pointed out that academia and the private sector talk in different languages. Both parties should be able to explain themselves adequately, given that when they do collaborate, they are effectively interested in the same area. However, a document fit for academic review and publishing can be worlds apart from a document fit for implementing in a business setting. It's important when collaborating on a research project to make clear both parties requirements, specifically referring to deliverables and style of delivery (e.g. summary of research in everyday style of writing).
Also, (controversial) not all research will have the desired outcome, the whole solution of a research project is to find something out, a known unknown. Expecting to firm up a business decision with some objective research may have the opposite effect for example, what had initially been intended, but in either case you should have learnt something and helped others too.
Is someone already doing this?
I believe half the problem with collaborating with a university is simply knowing who the best person to contact is. It's obviously advisable to research what it is you need first and see if someone has already solved it in some way. The catch 22 here is a lot research is either not published (dissertations gathering dust in libraries) or behind pay walls - this is changing but will still be the case for a while yet. Knowing that your problem / project is novel makes it both more attractive to a student, also instantly more worthwhile because it is something that is new and innovative.
It might be you find someone already investigating in your area, and at Eulergy we believe this is generally true. In which case, the chance for collaboration is much easier if you know that person/s are already interested in the research and would be interested in supporting its continuation.
Do you have some experience with a university or business collaboration? Do you have any words to help others? Please let us know below.