Research and industry – A relationship guide (Part 1)

November 15, 2017

Videos from the Spark Festival: Australian leaders explore how universities can better prepare researchers for the future.

Leaders from both academia and business agree that the best way to foster innovation in science and technology is by getting researchers, business and startups working together.

We’ve prepared this two-part Relationship Guide to canvass the issues and promote the assistance and support available to researchers who want to interact more closely with industry.

As part of the 2017 Spark Festival, Inspiring Australia NSW hosted a forum to explore what it would take to create more value from publicly funded knowledge.

Participants discussed what needs to change in universities to better prepare researchers for the future.

The 2017 Global Innovation Index ranks Australia 23rd in the world, behind China, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Singapore. While Australia is placed 10th in terms of “knowledge workers” it scores a low 52nd for innovation linkages and 48th for knowledge absorption. This is despite our ranking in the top 10 worldwide for innovation input – infrastructure, human capital, market sophistication and education.

So what’s not working in our research-business relationships and how can we fix it?

Changing the culture

With the next generation of STEM researchers often being trained by academics who lack the expertise, training and knowledge to commercialise research knowledge, there’s a pressing need for universities to think more innovatively about education and industry engagement. Even when an opportunity does not exactly align with a researcher’s particular interests, there may still be collaborative partnerships to explore.

Moving between academia and industry

When microbiologist Dr Dharmica Mistry left academia to enter industry, she felt like she was jumping to the dark side and abandoning a research career forever. The founder and Chief Scientist at BCAL Diagnostics, a biotech company commercialising a blood test for breast cancer screening, would like academics to be able to move more freely between the academic and commercial worlds.


Communicating is not a hobby

Dr Noushin Nasiri develops novel sensors that can detect disease in human breath. When the post doctorate researcher began talking publicly about her research and its application as an affordable, nanoscale diagnostic device, four industry partners made contact to explore commercial opportunities.  But communicating research, she says, is still seen as a hobby.


A shared vision

Professor Veena Sahajwalla says that in order to develop commercialisation outcomes, it is critical for researchers to be able to both articulate the value and potential application of their work and also to understand the needs of the industry partner and their vision for the future.

Business can access research knowledge 

AusIndustry Innovation Facilitator Gary Colquhoun helps Australian businesses identify opportunities for research collaboration to address their knowledge gaps in all kinds of ways, driving business innovation and creating a positive impact on the economy.

Sustainable startups

Shelley Copsey leads New Ventures and Commercialisation at Data61 and is working with research startups to help them develop the sustainability and longevity they need to build a product pipeline. She says that to successfully commercialise knowledge, researchers must develop the skills to build solid relationships with multiple research organisations as well as in-house R&D capability.

– Jackie Randles

Click here for Research and industry – A relationships guide (Part 2).

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