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Barriers and Solutions

Collaboration between academia and other parties is characterized by barriers.

The goal of the afternoon sessions at the Knowledge Exchange Day 2013 was to clarify these barriers and find solutions that can make the collaboration process easier and more attractive.

Conference participants could attend one of five workshops, focusing on different collaboration parties. They were: Collaboration with public authorities, small and medium sized businesses, large enterprises, civil society and innovation collaboration.

Each workshop chose in unison which two over-all barriers were most critical and focused on these. Participants could choose between: Connecting the academic community with society, Preservation of research integrity, Incentives to collaborate, Value creation of knowledge exchange and Crediting of collaboration.

The result was long lists of identified barriers from all five workshops. Many of the barriers were mentioned several times. They are summed up below.

After the barriers were listed, possible solutions were identified. Again, several of the suggestions came up more than once indicating that this is clearly a way to bring down the barriers. They are also summed up below.

 Barriers:

  • It’s difficult to measure results. And how should the benefits that society gains by collaborating with academia be measured? Until now, researchers are mainly evaluated on their publications and not credited for their collaboration with external parties. Is it at all possible to measure and visualize the value that is to be the outcome of a collaboration process by using currency?
  • Therefore, as it is now, it’s better for the researcher to work in basic research; this is a better career path.
  • There is a lack of structured fora, both internal and external that can help embed collaboration across sections. It seems as if there is a lack of institutional recognition and support of collaboration with external parties at Aarhus University. The organization of divisions at Aarhus University is unclear, especially for people outside the university.
  • It seems as if there isn’t much experience on how to collaborate with external parties at Aarhus University.
  • The lack of a mutual cultural understanding of the differences in business and academia can hinder collaboration.
  • A trust in the value of complex processes without a well-defined goal has to be created. This important both for researchers and the partner in order to have a successful collaboration.
  • But there is a lack of time to meet up without any expectations on the outcome. Researchers have to make appointments in their spare time.
  • Economy is also a barrier – both funding for research and getting paid for the preliminary process.
  • Researchers fear the loss of research integrity when collaborating with external parties.

 

Solutions:

  • The collaboration with industry and authorities should be acknowledged. Somehow researchers and the university should be rewarded differently than just on publications. Aarhus University should take the lead in creating a new way of valuating collaboration as a form of research work.
  • A suggestion is to create a KE-index (knowledge exchange) similar to the H-index. It could be based on the number of projects, economic volume and different external parties. Furthermore it has to be internationally acknowledged.
  • Departments at Aarhus University should be awarded. This would make it possible to allocate time.
  • Restructuring the time plan of researchers:
    • Time for teaching
    • Time for research
    • Time for sharing knowledge and building collaboration with the civil society
  • Aarhus University should hire people with the skill set for generating collaborations and make Knowledge exchange acknowledged as a forth criteria when employing researchers.
  • Knowledge Exchange should be mandatory and reported annually.
  • Society should be involved in the research collaboration with the goal of creating ownership.
  • Have someone from the research support unit to be in the department 2 times a week. This would make it easier to find the needed support.
  • Create a “dating-service” between AU and companies, which could help partners find each other.
  • Expand the use of the AU Alumni – using Alumni as a point of entry to companies.
  • Marketing of knowledge exchange could be done through case stories telling the great successes achieved through collaboration. The entrepreneurial researchers should be celebrated and made role models.
  • Aarhus University could offer researchers internships with external parties in order to learn how business function. Furthermore competency development on knowledge exchange and collaboration processes is warmly welcomed.