Why is External Engagement Important?

Traditional funding sources are highly becoming more and more difficult to secure, but there are emerging opportunities to engage with new industries. To do this it requires a change in mindset from the traditional grant writing process. This requires researchers to be able to plan ahead in a manner familiar to commercial investors.

Globally, the community is facing a rise in rapidly evolving problems threatening many symbols of our modern society. Government and business are grappling with a constant wave of disruption, threats and opportunities. New entrants are replacing incumbents at an unprecedented velocity with new technologies and agile and lean business models.

University researchers can seek to partner with industry to identify and respond to these threats and opportunities with game changing innovations. A continuation of the traditional solution, technology push or curiosity driven research paradigm will not enable universities to truly exploit and thrive in this new global environment. The Industry Engagement Workshop will provide some new tools and approaches to bring research teams closer to the outside world. A successful researcher of the future starts with the end in mind, creating globally innovative solutions in partnership with execution and translation partners from the beginning.

Furthermore pressure is mounting nationally and internationally on Universities and public funded research agencies to increase engagement and impact outside of academia. Universities are now incentivised through increased secondary gains and block grants tied to industry funding, collaboration and their impact narrative. This structural change is going to truly disrupt the University Business Model, which has historically be focussed solely on high ranking publications.

Why do Universities not play a larger role in Industry, particularly in Australia?

There are three key reasons:

  1. Australia doesn’t have the density of large multinational companies with head offices and R&D capacity and budget, so we need to work harder to engage them. In Europe Universities do much better with partnerships and translation as they have better access to industry;
  2. Academics mostly work in discipline silos without the richness of collaboration from totally different fields like engineering, life sciences, business, economic and social sciences; and
  3. Researchers don’t talk to or even have the skills and confidence to form relationships with the users and decision makers that are impacted by the problems researchers are trying to solve.

To truly solve a problem, one needs to have empathy with the problem, which can only be achieved by talking to people and observing the problem. Einstein said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and only 5 minutes thinking about solutions.” Therefore, a successful university does not see industry engagement as a discrete function of a dedicated group, but rather the culture of everyone, including staff and students. This can then be achieved by understanding problems better than anyone else, building innovative solutions in partnership with key stakeholders and finally executing these solutions with sustainable and scalable business models. If a whole University gets this, it can change the world while creating a new paradigm in university research engagement. Furthermore, the government will reward this university with additional block grant funding and higher calibre students will also come.

This workshop will introduce researchers to a process of building an industry engagement culture at CNBP for improved engagement, translation and impact. The tools used throughout the workshop will help researchers engage with industry by building empathy with stakeholders and the community to gain insight into problems. Researchers will learn about a process to develop an understanding of the pathology of unresolved problems looking for solutions and how to validate or invalidate their assumptions about how to solve these problems in partnership with Industry.