While it may not be immediately obvious, universities and industry have a shared purpose: universities focus on educating people and creating new knowledge; industry seeks to be more innovative, productive and diverse. Our shared purpose is in delivering solutions to help tackle social challenges and drive economic growth.
We’re in the midst of a global knowledge economy and universities are a vital centre of competence for end-users such as industry. Industry and the professions get the benefit of universities’ research and intellectual capacities. Universities get access to stimulating questions, new challenges and opportunities for our students.
Collaboration works when you have something the other party wants. Being open to collaboration begets other collaboration and it leads on from there.
That being said, universities are a business like any other. We may not be commercial organisations but we’re pro-commercial. And in business you have to supply what the market wants.
The European universities where I began my career are active collaborative institutions and I saw an opportunity to bring this ethos to the University of South Australia, an institution that has a history of working with industry and the professions.
In the four years that I have been Vice Chancellor of the institution I have seen the growth of more than 2500 partnerships that range from guest lectureships to program advisory boards to co-creators of program content.
One great example of collaboration is the one we have with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE). We co-developed a 4-year Honours degree, the Bachelor of Information Technology (Honours) (Enterprise Business Solutions) which offers 12 month paid internships for students. HPE has also become an Anchor Industry Partner in our Innovation and Collaboration Centre for students and start-ups and they’re a Foundation Partner in our new Museum of Discovery that’s due to open in 2018.
I have also seen the breaking down of silos within my own institution as we plan our new education precinct, which will be a focal point of educational innovation and enterprise.
The first partnership is with the State government, the schooling sector and the university. This was followed by partnerships between our engineering people, our environmental management experts, our architects and interior designers to build a precinct that will ultimately accommodate all facets of education.
We’re extending transdisciplinary approaches to education by engaging social work, psychology and other areas to contribute to the learning and holistic development of young people.
Having sat on both sides of the table I have seen collaboration work, and not work. It works when you have a shared vision of the project and you can see what each party stands to gain. You also need to know to walk away early if you know something is not going to work.
Ultimately collaboration allows you to do what you do even better.
I don’t know if the question is ‘Collaborate or crumble’. Collaborate or become increasingly irrelevant might be more apposite.
Vice Chancellor, UniSA
Read next: Hon Philip Dalidakis MP, Victorian Minister for Small Business, Innovation & Trade, discusses cybersecurity as a perfect example of turning a challenge into a collaboration opportunity.
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