Tag Archives: knowledge transfer

university to business

Bringing business to uni

Prime Minister Turnbull coined the catchphrase “collaborate or crumble” in December 2015 as he launched the $5 billion National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA).

The phrase replaced the longstanding “publish or perish” dictum to engage university researchers with NISA’s ambitious goals. Since then, universities have implemented several of the recommendations from the Watt Review, which was tasked with bringing into force changes to university research funding models to incentivise collaboration with business.

NISA simultaneously introduced financial incentives and initiatives to boost the innovation performance of Australian business.

Some of these opportunities can be leveraged within the framework of the business to business (B2B) model. Considerably more could be leveraged from the still relatively unexploited university to business (U2B) model.

Bringing university to business

A key advantage of the university to business model is that universities aren’t driven by the company bottom line. In principle, this should make cooperation and collaboration significantly easier to manage than in the B2B model.

To take advantage of the NISA incentives and initiatives, however, new U2B collaborations need to be established.

This is a challenge, because university research and Australian business have traditionally existed in parallel universes. One practical strategy is universities opening the doors to their own research hubs.

Established as “knowledge transaction spaces”, similar to industry-led Knowledge Hubs, university research hubs are ideal for university to business interactions because they engage researchers from a broad range of disciplines, with diverse skills sets – a veritable smorgasbord of intellectual resources all in one place.

The Charles Perkins Centre Hub at the University of Sydney, for example, is a melting pot of researchers in metabolic disease, and was established deliberately to be highly interdisciplinary and de-shackled from conventional biomedical research approaches.

Indeed, its approach is strongly aligned with the “convergence” strategy advocated by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in their 2016 report, based on an earlier white paper.

The University of Sydney’s newest research hub is the Sydney Nanoscience Hub, part of the Australian Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology. Although STEM-focused, nanoscience and nanotechnology involves diverse disciplines and has broad applications, some of which cannot even be imagined.

While quantum computing is attracting enormous interest from business, some researchers are looking to biology for inspiration to design next-generation nanotechnology devices. Why biology? Because every interaction between molecules in living organisms occurs on nano-scales.

In fact, some proteins are even referred to as “nano-machines” and because they operate so efficiently in such a busy, compact environment, they potentially hold the clue to discovering how to make practical quantum computers work in the real world.

Similarly, bio-inspired nanotechnology devices, designed to emulate brain-like adaptive learning, open up the possibility of neuromorphic “synthetic intelligence” hardware in next-generation autonomous systems.

Such synthetically intelligent robots could be sent to remote, unexplored places, such as the deep ocean or deep space. They could be used in place of real humans without requiring any pre-programming; information processing and critical decision making would occur on the fly, in real time – just as if they were real humans.

Collaborate and accelerate

The benefits of collaboration may seem obvious, but sometimes it is worth stating the obvious from different perspectives. When people interact, they self-organise, forming groups that operate collectively to achieve imperatives as well as unexpected outcomes.

These outcomes would otherwise not be possible at the individual level – the whole is indeed greater than the sum of its parts. We experience this every day now through social media.

In the internet age that we find ourselves in today, it has never been more important to collaborate, simply because of the sheer volume of information we have access to and the increasing rate at which this data is growing.

We cannot feasibly keep up with this as individuals, but as teams, we can.

Knowledge can be gained by individuals much more effectively through interactions with others than by searching the internet or reading a research publication.

That new shared information can be applied more efficiently. This means that through collaboration, researchers and business can accelerate their progress on the path to success, however they each choose to measure it. 

Professor Zdenka Kuncic

Founding Co-Director, Australian Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology, The University of Sydney

Read next: Professor Andrew Rohl, Director of the Curtin Institute for Computation, compares academic collaboration with partnerships that involve industry. 

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Australian Innovation System

Australian innovation system in focus

The most comprehensive review of the Australian innovation system ever conducted was released this week by Innovation and Science Australia (ISA). If it was your child’s school report, you’d be saying we better have a serious discussion over dinner.
 
The conversion might go something like:

ISA: “We’ve had this discussion before, Australia. We’ve got your report and it’s OK but when are you going to really step up?”

Australia: “It’s not bad though. The Knowledge Creation teacher likes me.”

ISA: “It’s not a matter of whether the teacher likes you, or you like the teacher. We just want the best for you and if you are going to have a great future, you’ve got to put in the hard work across the board, not just in the areas you enjoy. Everyone likes you, Australia, but that’s different to doing the best you can.”

Australia: “Yeah, I know I could do more in transfer and application, but you want me to be like Israel or Singapore and they never have any fun and just work all the time”.

 ISA: “We’ve never said you can’t have fun. But at some stage you need to put your head down and get on with some serious work.”

Australia: “Yeah, yeah, I know….”
 
You get the picture. The full report on the Australian innovation system can be found here.

The report concentrates on the three areas of knowledge creation, knowledge transfer and knowledge application and establishes 20 measures across these. Clear benchmarks are set out between Australia’s performance and the average of the top five OECD performers, which gives a pretty clear guidance for future improvement.

The 20 measures were whittled down from an initial group of over 200 and they’ll be the basis for measuring the impact of future policy change. The report’s performance assessment is fairly general across the three key areas, rather than specific at the program level.

The rubber will hit the road during the coming phase as ISA pulls together a strategic plan for innovation and science in Australia to 2030. It’s hard to disagree at the moment when the conclusions are that we need to do better in a number of general areas. The contentious part will come much more in the strategic planning and implementation stage where change will be needed.

The performance review, which runs to over 200 pages and more than 700 references, provides an excellent baseline for future evaluation and Innovation and Science Australia deserves credit for publication of this important body of work.

It has the potential to become the reference material for judging performance of programs and their contribution to an overall Australian innovation strategy. At the very least, the assessment identifies which programs are regularly, thoroughly and transparently reviewed and those that are not.

An obvious part of the coming strategic plan will be to ensure all parts of the Australian innovation system are independently reviewed on a regular basis so their contribution to the overall strategy is maximised.

But this is not just a report for the government or ISA, where they should be tasked to simply fix things. It should be used across business, research organisations and all levels of government because it pulls together international data and lays out clearly where we stand as a country.

The assessment is a solid base to build on and could give the much needed longer-term vision needed for innovation in Australia.

– Dr Tony Peacock, CEO of the CRC Association

Click here to read the Performance Review of the Australian Innovation, Science and Research System 2016.

This piece on the Australian Innovation System was first published by the CRC Association on 7 February 2017. Read the original article here