University-business collaboration goes from strength to strength
A recent study demonstrates that Tampere University of Technology (TUT) lives up to its impressive reputation for being at the forefront of industry-relevant research and development. The commitment to develop and pursue new collaborations with industry and business permeates the entire academic community in Tampere, more so than in many other cities.
Tampere University of Technology (TUT) collaborates with approximately 1,000 companies each year. Professor Jose Lastra gives his visitors from Optofidelity/CYG a presentation about zero defect manufacturing in the Laboratory of Automation and Hydraulics at TUT.
“All over the world, the fields of technology have been forerunners in developing university-business collaboration. Other disciplines have gradually followed suit. TUT stands out among higher education institutions in Finland for its active engagement with industry and business,” says Pekka Jääskö, Director of Finance and Partner at Crazy Town Oy. Jääskö visited TUT in September to present the results of a survey that was conducted as part of a national project titled ‘University-Business Cooperation Finland’.
Jarmo Takala, Vice President of TUT and future Provost of the new Tampere University, assures that TUT’s close ties with industry and business will continue to be fostered and maintained in the future.
“TUT is renowned for the breadth and depth of its industry collaboration. Once the new Tampere University begins its operations, this collaboration will continue and expand to cover diverse and strong interactions with society without compromising the quality of research or degrees,” says Takala.
The value of collaboration between higher education institutions and industry is widely acknowledged in Tampere. The City of Tampere, the Province of Pirkanmaa and other stakeholders of the region’s innovation ecosystem are committed to nurturing this type of collaboration and maintain a range of services and platforms for the purpose.
What drives university-business collaboration?
Over 1000 respondents
The survey was conducted in Tampere, Kuopio and Kotka in spring 2018 as part of a project titled ‘University-Business Cooperation Finland’ carried out by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, the Ministry of Education and Culture and University Properties of Finland Ltd. The survey was implemented by Crazy Town (previously Business Arena). The survey involved more than 1,000 respondents, of whom approximately 200 were employed by industry and business.
The results of the survey indicate that higher education institutions pursue diverse collaborative activities with companies. The respondents identified 14 different forms of collaboration in the areas of teaching, research, knowledge transfer and administration.
“We recommend that higher education institutions raise awareness of their effective models for business collaboration and scale them up to the national level. TUT would have much to offer in this area,” says Jääskö.
Only one in four university employees collaborate with companies because they are expected to. The overwhelming majority do so willingly because this type of collaboration allows them to develop their teaching, apply their knowledge and address challenges facing our society.
While students have the most to gain from university-business collaboration, it benefits everyone involved, namely the partner companies, the university, personnel and the broader society.
The survey demonstrates that the key driving force behind university-business collaboration is human interaction. Those who are yet to become involved in these activities might be encouraged and inspired to do so by bringing up role models and success stories and acknowledging related achievements. Concrete assistance for getting started, especially for finding potential partners, is also required.
Companies are calling for universities to take a proactive approach
Pekka Jääskö, Director of Finance and Partner at Crazy Town Oy, TUT's Business Liaison Manager Pasi Vakaslahti and Mikko Korpela from Crazy Town Oy discussing the results of the survey at Kampusareena.
Companies are keen to partner with universities and thereby tap into the latest expertise and technologies and develop their innovation skills. What mainly stands in the way of collaboration is lack of information: universities do not know what companies need, and companies do not know what universities have to offer.
“This shows that we need to maintain active dialogue with companies and not assume anything. Both companies and universities have to take the time to talk things through,” says TUT's Business Liaison Manager Pasi Vakaslahti.
Companies are hoping that universities maintain active and regular contact with them and offer them clearly packaged services. Roughly 50 per cent of companies expect their collaboration with universities to increase in the future.
Barriers to university-business collaboration in Finland and Europe
A pan-European survey reveals that the perceived obstacles to university-business collaboration are largely the same across the continent. The most commonly cited barriers were lack of funding and the limited resources of SMEs. Finnish respondents found the latter a slightly greater barrier than respondents in the rest of Europe.
Compared with their European colleagues, the employees of Finnish higher education institutions have slightly better opportunities to use their work time to pursue collaborations with industry and business. It is also easier for them to find collaboration partners. In addition, Finnish respondents considered the motivation and values of higher education institutions and companies to be more similar than respondents elsewhere in Europe.
Responses differed most when the respondents were invited to rate how much bureaucracy hinders university-business collaboration. On a scale of 1–10, the overall score was 6.7 in Europe and 5.4 in Finland.
Read more: https://www.ub-cooperation.eu/
Text: Kati Vastamäki
Photos: Mika Kanerva