How to build an entrepreneurial university

university

(Victoria Heath, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Jaci Eisenberg, Head of Academic Engagement, World Economic Forum & David Gann, Vice President, Imperial College & Saemoon Yoon, Community Lead, Technology Pioneers, World Economic Forum Geneva


Universities and industry have a lot to learn from one another – and partnerships between the two can be mutually beneficial while especially serving the university’s entrepreneurial students.

It can be difficult to get these partnerships right, but with a structured collaborative framework on the part of the university, an eye to common values, flexibility and smart programmes for budding start-ups, these partnerships can benefit all involved.

Here’s how universities can better partner with industry and become more entrepreneurial.

Sharpening the university’s structures for collaboration with industry

Industry partners do not always find it easy to collaborate with universities. The partners might expect a streamlined process, but collaboration is often siloed, requiring partners to interact with different parts of the institution.

Nurturing a university culture for industry collaboration must be an institutional priority. Robert Rybnicek and Roland Königsgruber recently published a meta-analysis of the literature on factors facilitating university-industry collaboration, in which they identified structure and staff as critical factors affecting the success of partnerships.

Universities can improve collaboration by creating a transparent framework for industry partnerships. This includes appointing a dedicated partnership facilitator to help business leaders understand the processes and sequences of collaboration within the university and navigate transitions. Such a counterpart allows the university to take the lead on the collaboration in a structured way.

The evolution of university-industry collaboration in the UK is a noteworthy example. With more research funding to support collaborative programmes, the Innovative Manufacturing Initiative led to a host of new research-industry collaborations. But these endeavours exposed the need for greater capacity of industry to absorb leading research results. The most recent UK policy attempts to measure the impact universities have on society and the economy, with increased emphasis on knowledge transfer through the development of a new indicator, the Knowledge Excellence Framework.

Some universities, such as Imperial College London, have always fostered deep partnerships with industry. Imperial College London currently collaborates with more than 500 technology partners, contributing significantly to its core research income. These relationships and how they’re management within universities continue to evolve, as it’s recognized they bring multiple benefits beyond core research collaboration – including better access to and collaboration with talented students and staff, support for start-ups through corporate venture capital and corporate acceleration, engagement in local community activities and convening public events and raising awareness of the long-term importance of science, engineering, medicine and the arts. Such collaborations have led to more sophisticated mechanisms within universities to work across traditional silos.

Funding by industry in university R&D in millions (2006-2016)
Image: World Economic Forum/National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Higher Education Research and Development Survey

Shooting for the same stars

Partnerships are most successful when the collaborating parties have complementary assets and common values. It’s important for the collaborating parties to establish a consensus based on a clear understanding of how both parties can create synergies and derive value before establishing a partnership.

Not all partnerships between academia and industries work. Collaborations sometimes fail because of different expectations of success, timing and investment. One way to solve this is to establish a common plan for collaboration, with a clear calendar of communications and milestones, roster of counterparts, desired outcomes, investment and agreed processes for dispute resolution established early in the partnership. This commitment can ensure a shared vision for the university-industry collaboration –but it needs to remain flexible, ready to adapt as circumstances on both sides evolve. This is particularly important in collaborative research, when unexpected results may lead partnerships in new directions.

Agility is central to successful collaborations. Changes in industrial requirements may mean the plans for collaboration must adapt in rapid, flexible manner.

Alan Hughes and Ben Martin mapped the synergies and trade-offs between research, teaching and knowledge exchange in a 2012 report for the CIHE-UK~IRC Task Force on Enhancing Value on the value of public sector research and development. HEIs stands for Higher Education Institutions.

The synergies and trade-offs between research, teaching and knowledge exchange. (HEIs stands for Higher Education Institutions.)
Image: Enhancing Impact: The Value of Public Sector R&D by Alan Hughes and Ben Martin

Building a robust relationship between stakeholders from the get-go is essential. Relationships require a foundation of trust and an understanding of the interests of each party – and nurturing these relationships throughout the partnership is equally critical. As leadership change takes place at different rates in academia, start-ups and large corporations, it can be challenging to re-establish trust and re-align on the goals in the face of change. It’s important to have a strategic consensus to sustain the essence of mutual goals and reinforce the relationship to maintain a solid relationship throughout their partnership. MIT’s Industrial Liaison Programme and Imperial College’s Business Partners Club are good models.

“In particular, aligning on expectations from each stakeholder – academia, start-ups, and corporations – is a key to establishing trust and long-term success,” said Ram Jambunathan, Managing Director, SAP.iO. “Academia is often focused on pushing the boundaries forward through proof-of-concept demonstrations, while corporates may be looking for something incremental that can align to existing offerings, mature development processes or sales motions. And in between are start-ups coming from universities that are in the process of establishing product-market fit.”

Each university-industry partnership is a learning experience. Successes should be celebrated, but failures or unmet targets are also valuable, because the experience can refine and transform further collaborations into long-term successes and enduring relationships.

“In particular, aligning on expectations from each stakeholder – academia, start-ups, and corporations – is a key to establishing trust and long-term success,” said Ram Jambunathan, Managing Director, SAP.iO.

Simplifying spin-off and start-up activities

Expectations for universities have changed dramatically over the years. As Nesta, the innovation foundation, observed in 2016, university administrations increasingly want their students to grapple with real-world challenges. At the same time, the start-up boom and the appeal of venture capital funding has led to an increase in students seeking to build entrepreneurial careers while at university.

Start-ups born in the university may struggle with building the right team of colleagues and advisors, complexities of intellectual property rights and the potential pitfall of developing solutions without problems to address. Universities can help entrepreneurial students thrive by providing mentorship opportunities. For example, an MIT alum and professor launched the MIT Venture Mentoring Service in 2000 to fill a need in that community. Beyond thematic mentors to advise on concept or product development, student-entrepreneurs need access to mentors with expertise in project management, fundraising and legal matters to ensure start-ups are well-structured from the get-go. UnternehmerTUM, the Center for Innovation and Business Creation at the Technical University of Munich, has a dedicated start-up consulting team to lead burgeoning entrepreneurs to market.

Sid Misra, co-founder of Perceptive Automata, said, “Start-ups are built or broken by founding teams. Guidance on market expectations and business norms are invaluable to academic founders, whether through connections to relevant investors and start-up lawyers, teach-ins by local entrepreneurs or through more extensive entrepreneur-in-residence programs. If the university wants to encourage spin-offs, even though most ventures will not directly contribute meaningfully to a university’s operating budget in the short run, universities are actually in a unique position to play a defining role in the early days.”

A word of caution, however: universities can lay the groundwork for start-ups to succeed, but student-entrepreneurs (and even faculty entrepreneurs) must take the step to jump to market. Universities can increase the chances their students will succeed by building internship programmes that allow learners to work in early-stage companies, thus enabling students to understand what being an entrepreneur means.

Another way universities can nurture their entrepreneurial ecosystems is by providing spaces for entrepreneurial teams to meet with each other, other entrepreneurial teams, mentors and other companies. These spaces also provide an attractive venue for universities to engage with the corporate world. Imperial College London opened its Translation and Innovation Hub to nurture its entrepreneurial ecosystem and host its White City Incubator. It includes all the aforementioned elements, including dedicated lab facilities to include life-science start-ups in their innovation ecosystem.

Finally, universities can assist start-ups is by offering simple intellectual property rights regimes, either with the university obtaining a percentage of equity in the start-up for a given funding amount, or with the university fully supporting a start-up. The intellectual property regime certainly needs to be tailored to the industry or the situation, but start-ups appreciate clarity about the regime in the early stages of company formation.

To sum up, a holistic approach to entrepreneurship can be mutually beneficial for universities, entrepreneurs who start out in academia and industry. And with motivated and connected experts dedicated to facilitating different types of relationships, university-industry partnerships can lead to exceptional results.

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

the European Sting Milestones

Featured Stings

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

MEPs propose measures to combat mobbing and sexual harassment

EU Commission: The banks are not obliged to finance the real economy

How much more social deterioration can the EU people endure?

ECB guarantees the liquidity of the Atlantic financial volume

Only the Americans are unhappy with the ceasefire agreement in eastern Ukraine

UN rights chief welcomes new text to protect rights of peasants and other rural workers

Khashoggi case highlights ‘very worrying practice’ of overseas abductions, says UN expert

Security Council urges ‘maximum restraint’ around Gulf region as Iran and United States trade diplomatic blows in New York

Three ways Finland leads the world – and education isn’t one of them

Siemens-Alstom merger: Can Germany and France lobby to circumvent EC’s rejection, against EU consumers’ interests?

Trade barriers: EU removes record number in response to surge in protectionism

G20 LIVE: “United States and Turkey stand in solidarity with France and its people in handing the perpetrators of this crime and bringing them to justice”, US President Barack Obama underlines from G20 in Antalya Turkey

Kazakhstan continues to push for a nuclear-free world

Germany’s strong anti-bribery enforcement against individuals needs to be matched by comparably strong enforcement against companies

Afghanistan: Bring ‘architects’ of latest ‘appalling’ suicide bombing to justice, says deputy UN mission chief

Drones are saving lives in Tanzania’s remote communities

Reusable packaging: 6 benefits beyond sustainability

Finland has giant supermarkets that only stock second-hand goods

Macron leads EU-wide minimum wage call as Merkel, Medvedev warn of global injustice

Action needed to end deadly clashes between African herders and farmers: UN chief

Eurozone: Even good statistics mean deeper recession

Court of Auditors: EU budget money is there to be spent not to create value

International Literacy Day: What you need to know about youth literacy

What does Tsipras have to offer to the rest of Europe? Is it worth an early advance of €10 billion? Berlin sturdily denies it

New Zealand will have a new ‘well-being budget,’ says Jacinda Ardern

Hate speech exacerbating societal, racial tensions with ‘deadly consequences around the world’, say UN experts

Why financial services can kickstart Africa’s digital economy

Where are the charities in the great Artificial Intelligence debate?

Is your smart home as safe as you think?

DPRK reports ‘little progress’ since historic June 2018 summit with US

EU security and defence industry prepares positions for ‘producers’ and ‘customers’

6 facts to know about EU alternative investment funds

European Union supports survivors of sexual violence in conflict

3 unexpected consequences of the US-China trade war

Mergers: Commission approves the acquisition of Flybe by Connect Airways, subject to conditions

EU to give more power to national antitrust authorities in a bid to secure regulatory fines

What is inclusive capitalism, and why does it matter?

Peacekeeping chief highlights challenges facing UN Police

This is how social media giants are helping stop the spread of measles

The EU’s trading partners: US, China and the rest

China has made a shocking food production discovery – electro culture

Did young people just kill television?

Parliament to ask for the suspension of EU-US deal on bank data

New legislation on transparency and sustainability of the EU risk assessment model in the food chain

When will Eurozone’s unemployment rate stop being Europe’s worst nightmare?

COP21 Breaking News: Paris Pact on Water and Climate Change Adaptation Announced

Earth already has a perfect recycling system. So why not use it?

Drinking water: new plans to improve tap water quality and cut plastic litter

Gaza: deadly violence continues to escalate, top UN officials work to restore calm

Seven trends shaping the future of the mining and metals industry

Why is the EU launching a doomed policy in stopping immigrant waves? What are the real targets?

EU to relocate 40,000 migrants across the bloc: first step of a long due substantial reform?

China hopes EU Commissioner De Gucht drops super anti-dumping tariff on solar panels

Medical students: The need for emigration

Nuclear test ban treaty critical to global collective security – UN chief

Few countries are pricing carbon high enough to meet climate targets

Hollande protects the euro from the attacks of extremists

A shocking new report reveals what we’ve done to the natural world

US cities are going to keep getting hotter

Does research make sense any more? The dire need for new ways to measure success

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s