Thursday, January 17, 2013

Changing face of Academia Industry collaboration.

A common ground, where academia lends the conceptualization & generalization skills and the industry provides the practical reality in which the conceptualization can be rooted.

This has been and will be the root factor for this collaboration. Like every other trend, this trend too is adding another dimension to it – ‘impact’.

The expectations from the industry have risen. Not only do they look at academia for fresh ideas and primary research but they now, for a valid reason, also expect them to provide real differentiation to their outstanding problems, fulfill a need and, of course, help them make money.

Though academia has been a top source of fundamental research and know how, it also has been the biggest black hole for huge sum of funds from organizations across US and Europe. But gone or going are the days when companies invested in academic research for a tick in their strategy checklist. Gone are the days when companies never came back to see what happened to their funds, and gone are the days when an organization funded same academia, same department, headed by the same person for decades.

The reasons for this shift are many,

a) Earlier the small number of organizations who got it right, had got it right for a long time, and large number of organizations who got it wrong continued doing it wrong for a long time, and they never knew or could never admit it.

b) The most common route to industry academia collaboration has been the alumni of that academia in the respective organization as a key interface. As one can imagine this restricted the possibilities and almost made it an one to one exploration i.e. top 2-3 executives would collaborate with 2-3 academia they came from.

c) Availability of large number of fundamental innovations, be it electricity, communication technology, computing power, nanotechnology and so on, has created millions of not so fundamental but immensely beneficial applications or call it sub innovations which we all use in our daily lives.

I will leave the interpretations of above three points as to why they act as reason for the shift wherein now organizations are increasingly looking at academia for applied research and impact driven innovation, incremental innovations, even non technical and design innovations.  

Companies like ideaken play a key role in this new equation, where diverse yet systematic, based on primary research yet with sufficient social and business impact, is the new norm for academia industry collaboration.