The challenge of igniting university-industry collaborations

Patrick InPartA guest post from Alex Stockham and Patrick Speedie (pictured), Technology Communications Officer and Co-founder of IN-PART

A movement took hold in academia at the dawn of the 20th century. It spread its wings, exploded twice, then emerged into the technological civilisation we inhabit. This movement today we call ‘impact’ is underpinned by a fundamental motive – in return for funding and support, research conducted at universities should provide positive benefit to society.

Probably the most effective means to this end is by taking ideas cultivated in academia and incorporating them into the development of technologies which can enhance health, wellbeing, the environment and economy. The most productive route for this method is through universities and businesses collaborating, co-operating and sharing ideas.

A central problem we have though is the scale of it all. Every day an abundance of researchers add to the global stock of knowledge, advancing the boundaries of what we know and don’t. In the face of quantity, matching a single piece of research to the specific needs of a business is like trying to start a fire without a spark.

This is where IN-PART comes in. In just over a year IN-PART have established an online platform that enables universities of all sizes to showcase their early-stage, high-potential innovations exclusively to R&D professionals – from SME’s to multinational giants. A facility on the platform enabling no-obligation queries and contacts to be submitted directly to universities has resulted in collaborations sparking left, right and centre. Outcomes so far range from co-development projects, licensing and private sector funding, to studentships, academics secondments and co-applications for funding.

Fuel and oxidant (universities and businesses)aside, the clear benefits are as follows; for society a better world to live in; for universities a clear route to impact; and for businesses – innovation, expertise and capital gains.

Under the surface however, an industry-exclusive hub of university innovations provides more than meets the eye. Quantifiable metrics and qualitative feedback, provided by IN-PART are a valuable asset for universities. “The variety of metrics provided helps us gauge the reception our university’s technologies have had on a wide range of industry, as well as providing feedback for potential future routes to market”, said one Business Development Manager from the Research and Innovation Office at the University of York.

On the flip side, centralising university research for businesses to capitalise upon is of tangible value. “IN-PART is a great resource for keeping up to date with the latest technologies from universities, as well as identifying collaborative opportunities available from research institutions. The process for contacting universities is straightforward and professionally managed by the IN-PART team to ensure effective interaction”, reported a Business Research Associate from DuPont.

As we move through 2015, IN-PART continues to expand. Having launched with five UK universities last year, we now work with 36, as well as recently welcoming our first international partners; the University of Tokyo, National University of Singapore, and Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology. What’s more, the diversity of companies using IN-PART for academic liaison, business development and scouting is growing every day. Current figures stand at over 350 businesses and over 1000 senior level R&D professionals.

For any university or business interested in exploring the use of the IN-PART system, more case studies and information can be obtained at www.in-part.com. Alternatively, co-founders Patrick Speedie (patrick@in-part.co.uk) and Dr. Robin Knight (robin@in-part.co.uk) can provide any further information required. Both will also be available for meetings at the PraxisUnico conference in Dublin, and BIO International Convention in Philadelphia in June.

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