Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Industry academia collaboration – will Asia’s turn see it through Crowdsourcing lens?

Can there be a Crowdsourcing between Industry and Academia which is beneficial to both sides? Crowdsourcing industry - for simplicity sake can be classified into two buckets – a) Creative, and b) Innovative. Examples of creative Crowdsourcing are Voice, Picture, Video, Logo, Ads. These creative’s usually are represented by artefacts and these artefacts when protected are protected by copyrights. On the other hand innovation Crowdsourcing is mostly about ideas and solutions, which in turn if need to be protected are protectable by intellectual property rights.

As it seems, Crowdsourcing for ideas and innovation is more suitable between Industry and Academia.

However, Academia and industry are different at the core, to the extent that you can say -  academia is from Venus (Calm and collected), and Industry is from Mars (Restless and under pressure.). So most but few collaborations end up being too complex to have a mature relationship.

Just to put the term “Academia Industry Collaboration” in perspective, there are many ways academia and industry collaborates, top 3 being 1. Employment (Core reason why academia exists in this era) 2. Industrial Education (So that the point 1 above keep meeting its goal) 3. And 3rd is ideas, innovation and R&D, we will primarily talk around  3rd point and argue why it is now Asia’s turn, so in this context we had defined academia industry collaboration as "A common ground, where academia lends the conceptualization & generalization skills, and the industry provides the practical reality in which the conceptualization can be rooted."

So why say ‘Asia’s turn’ -  is because US and Europe has done considerably well in this area so far, I see following three as what really is different around academia industry tangle among US and Asia.

1) In US, majority of the academia funding comes from the Industry, which is on decline now as per my  partner in the US. It is slightly reverse in Asia, where most of the funding comes from Government, and as per the data available - funding from Industry is increasing in Asia.  Funding from industry brings in far more focus on being relevant to the real needs of people and therefore the better innovation outcome.

2) In US, primary mission of Academia since pre war era till now is to develop skill for local industry. While in Asia academia is geared to provide skill for the best possible market in the world (which is USA! for now). You see Asian local industry would be reluctant to fund something which is not going to be of their area of interest.

3) In US, the origin and basis of education system is relatively new, not more than 200 years or so. While in Asia, education has ancient roots and was tightly linked to religion & spirituality, which  usually is kept delinked and independent from the business world. In Asia lot of people still think that a professor cannot have a business of his own. I am still not sure how much of a commercial angle to an education is right and where it starts hurting!

These being differences, the real big reason why US still leading the academia industry collaboration is because the ecosystem now already in place, it is no longer dependent of above differences. It is an accepted protocol and kind of a norm to have association with academia.  

Few years back, when my cousin was looking for a place to open his garment showroom, he took me around to see few places. Agent showed us 5-6 places that afternoon, and I could see that all the places my cousin seem to have liked where around already existing garment showrooms. So being in a business of ideas, I asked him why don’t you look for a place, where there are no garment showroom at all. On which, he replied, garment buyers look for a place where they can get a choice, where they can park the vehicle once and walk into 3-4 or even more places, so getting a place where there is already similar business works better. Since then whenever I am in a marketplace in any city in India, I do not fail to notice the cluster of similar businesses be it garment, furniture or niche commodity like Marble for home construction all located in same area.

For the same reason, in US and in Europe (Especially in Silicon Valley), you would find starts ups in and around the academia. And if you are the one who yet do not have an academia linkage then  during your next coffee conversation at the local coffee shop, you most probably will end up having one.

So when we talk about Asia’s turn, it is not about increasing  industry academia collaboration, it is also not about being more innovative, but is about making sure if we have enough ingredient for a ecosystem to thrive, most importantly remove obvious roadblocks. While we do this needful, we them must sit back, if industry academia collaboration is beneficial to both (which usually is) then it will take place without anyone doing anything about it!