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Research and industry – A relationship guide (Part 2)

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. Read Part 1 here.

Businesses look to universities and research institutes for new knowledge that can help them scale up and innovate their products and services. By accessing the latest research findings, businesses of all kinds can improve their efficiency and profit. At the same time, researchers can create sustainable jobs, novel solutions and global pathways for their knowledge. While there’s robust support available to facilitate research-business relationships, it can be hard for a business to find the knowledge they need. Cultural differences and misunderstandings can also get in the way.

  Get out of your bubble!

The best way for researchers to find new opportunities is by networking, knocking on doors and telling others about their discoveries. There will be no collaborative opportunities for those that can’t be found and the new commercial engagement KPIs attached to federal research funding provide strong incentives for all academic researchers to widely communicate the value and potential of their work.

It’s all in the timing

Academics might resist the faster timeframes imposed by businesses seeking knowledge input in order to take a product to market, but unless researchers are prepared to respond to commercial timeframes and develop a sense of urgency, there’s a chance that opportunities will pass them by. No matter how closely a research project aligns with a commercial product, the early bird will get the worm.

Knowledge exchange

Universities are increasingly supporting students and academics to acquire the skills they need to explore commercial opportunities, with assistance provided by way of incubators, accelerators, short courses and government support. Learn more about some of the initiatives that help facilitate and accelerate research-business partnerships: Tech Connect, AMSI Intern, CSIRO’s ON, Cicada Innovations and Data 61’s Ribit and Expert Connect platforms.

 

Don’t rely on government support

While a broad range of government support is available to help researchers get started, Appen founder Dr Julie Vonwiller warns that to succeed, a product must be able to stand alone on its own merit in a marketplace without the need for ongoing subsidies.

Publish or perish?

There’s often a tension between publishing and protecting knowledge with IP, but patent attorney Dr Gavin Recchia says it’s all about getting the timing right.

It’s a team sport

Business owners Dr Alan Taylor and Dr Julie Vonwiller say the entrepreneurial journey requires a vast array of skills and talents and innovation all the way along as a business evolves. 

 

– Jackie Randles

Find more insights about research-industry partnerships from the Commercialising Research Forum on our Research Futures information channel developed with Inspiring Australia.

Research and industry – A relationship guide (Part 1)

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).