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Report: Co-creative innovation must be core mission of Europe’s universities


By David Schwartz
Published: March 19th, 2019

European universities need to embrace change by continuing to forge alliances with innovative companies and independent research groups to use and develop their knowledge in cooperation with the outside world, according to the European University Association’s new report The Role of Universities in Regional Innovation Ecosystems.

The report features in-depth case studies of nine prominent European universities and shows how universities and their partners in regional innovation systems can, should, and do join forces “to build such bridges across institutional and disciplinary boundaries, look for new collaborative formats and spaces in order to address shared challenges, and shape their own changing roles in the process.” By partnering effectively with other institutions and corporations, the report illustrates, schools are better able to embrace and develop innovations in critical areas like climate change, globalization and digitalization.

“We live in an age of radical transformations where traditional success factors are no longer valid,” said report author Dr. Sybille Reichert of Reichert Consulting. “We need new approaches and new business models.”

Dr. Thomas E Jørgensen, senior policy coordinator for the EUA, said the report’s key finding is that university innovation “now happens in cooperation [with business, government agencies, public organisations and citizens] and not in closed, linear systems…. Many big companies with large in-house research departments have diminished. It is a bigger societal and scientific change which directly affects the way universities are working.”

This report, he said, demonstrates that success comes when universities and their partners early on, tackling challenges from the beginning. “This can be done through student start-ups, project learning or by really long-term cooperation with industry,” Jørgensen added.

In Jørgensen’s view, external stakeholders are not “customers of knowledge, where the university transfers ideas to then be applied; it is much more about a common journey” that takes place in “innovation spaces or hubs” where different actors collaborate — often in the universities themselves.

“In the past, we had the idea that a brilliant researcher gets a result through basic research, which then gets refined and moves up the ‘technology readiness levels’ until it becomes a marketable product.” However, companies form strategic partnerships with universities at a much earlier stage now, Jørgensen said. “They are looking for the disruptive ideas from curiosity-driven research as much as for the incremental move to apply what we already know better.”

Source: University World News

Posted under: University-Industry Engagement Week

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