Since Universities or Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) have been established links with non-HEIs have always been on the agenda. For example, in 1451, Pope Nicolas V issued a Papal Bull stating that the knowledge generated by the University of Glasgow should be made available both locally and nationally.
With the passing of over 550 years since the announcement of such an intention the logical assumption would be that this knowledge transfusion would be commonplace and seamless. Wrong! Such transitions have been marred in the past by overly optimistic business planning by HEIs. In the late 90’s early 00’s there was a belief that financial sustainability for HEIs was achievable by the commercialization of the HEI intellectual property reservoir. This resulted in lengthy negotiations, phonebook sized contracts and unrealistic ambitions. For many of the companies involved the experience was not to be repeated.
Things have changed substantially since then and with the various pots of partnership development funding available (>£5000) and the light touch contracts involved, you would be forgiven for thinking that the doors of HEI’s are being battered down with potential partners looking to exploit the vast knowledge base available to most, on their doorstep.
So what are the barriers? Why are our doors still intact? The first reason is a legacy of the bad old days of the 00’s commercialization. Many non-HEI’s are still under the impression that they will have to make a deal with the devil to work to an HEI. The pace is also an issue. For many due the perceived glacial pace of HEI’s partnering is not an option. However, on a more fundamental level the consideration of working with an HEI is simply not on the radar.
The legacy issue is one we are overcoming one project and one event at a time. The difference in pace between an HEI and an SME for example is always going to be vast. But you would probably be surprised at how quickly projects are turned around if the right partnership is brokered to begin with. Considering how an HEI could benefit your organization is the biggest and possibly the most interesting challenge. The answer is probably not in parallel with your own core competency: you have that already. It is about considering what other capability would complement what you have already. What would you do given additional capability and perhaps more importantly, capacity.
Identifying how to get the best out of an HEI is not solely the responsibility of the non-HEI. Opening a dialogue with the right people (not always the academics) in the HEI of interest is the first step. The government funded pan-Scotland organization Interface can put your initial enquiry in front of all HEIs in Scotland and find the right expertise for your challenge, for example.
Alternatively you could subscribe to this blog and explore the knowledge base that is available to your organization, via the forthcoming series of blogs dedicated to helping you to access the world-class expertise within the College of Arts.
No need to bring your enforcer. Our doors are open.
Text by Dr Fraser Rowan